Republic Services Donates 100,000 Masks to Essential Service Providers


PHOENIX, July 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Republic Services, Inc. today announced the donation of 100,000 N95 masks to assist essential service providers in Atlanta and in Rutherford County, Tenn., amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation will provide much-needed support to healthcare workers at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, the largest public hospital in Georgia, and help keep first responders safe in Rutherford County. 

"As an essential service provider ourselves, Republic Services understands what it means to have employees on the job every day, taking care of our communities," said Jon Vander Ark, president. "Throughout the pandemic, we have been unwavering in our mission to take care of our people, our customers and the communities where we live and work. With this donation, we are proud to honor the work of those who are providing lifesaving services during this critical time." 

The donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) is an extension of Republic's "Committed to Serve" initiative. Committed to Serve is a $20 million initiative to recognize Republic's frontline employees and to help support small business customers that are the economic engines of local communities. Across the country, Republic has contributed $3 million to its charitable foundation to support the rebuilding of small businesses and invested $17 million back into local economies through gift cards and meals for employees and their families. 

In Atlanta, the donation of 40,000 masks will support the 3,000 doctors and other medical personnel on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic at Grady Hospital, a Republic customer. In Rutherford County, 60,000 masks will help protect first responders, county personnel and the community.

"It is impossible to express how grateful we are for the incredible support of Republic Services as we work to keep our employees and patients safe," said Joselyn Baker, president, Grady Health Foundation. "Personal protective equipment, including masks, is a critical component to our ability to deliver quality care – especially in the face of a global pandemic. Partnerships like this help to ensure we will continue to have the resources we need." 

About Republic Services

Republic Services, Inc. is an industry leader in U.S. recycling and non-hazardous solid waste disposal. Through its subsidiaries, Republic's collection companies, transfer stations, recycling centers, landfills and environmental services provide effective solutions to make responsible recycling and waste disposal effortless for its customers across the country. Its 36,000 employees are committed to providing a superior experience while fostering a sustainable Blue Planet® for future generations to enjoy a cleaner, safer and healthier world. For more information, visit, or follow us at on Twitter and @republic_services on Instagram.

SOURCE Republic Services, Inc.

A Tale of Corruption in Several Municipalities


It was crime on a grand scale. The punishment was equally so.

A federal criminal investigation can ensnare many different people. But just because an FBI agent wants to interview you doesn’t make you a criminal suspect. If you’re subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be indicted. Still, you’ll surely want to know where you stand, and it pays to simply ask.  

If you discover you are under investigation for criminal activity, the sensible approach is to engage a criminal defense lawyer and, on his or her advice, cooperate with the authorities. As for your status, let your attorney do the asking. The prosecutor’s response will typically fall into one of three categories: witness, subject or target.

To a federal agent or prosecutor, a “witness,” although not necessarily having seen or committed a crime, may have information that the government considers relevant in its investigation. A “subject” is a person whose behavior or activity is within the scope of a grand jury’s probe. The government considers the person’s behavior suspicious, and it may have a strong belief that the individual has engaged in illegal activity. When a prosecutor deems someone a “target,” it means the government believes it has substantial evidence of a crime and may soon be ready to formally bring charges. 

If you receive a letter from the Department of Justice identifying you as a target, it’s a sure bet you’ll be testifying before a federal grand jury regarding criminal activity the feds believe you’ve participated in. Incidentally, a surefire way to elevate your status from witness to subject or from subject to target is to destroy evidence or lie to the feds. Doing so amounts to obstruction of justice and will only multiply your woes.  

One often hears the term “person of interest,” which has no legal meaning. It could describe someone who has not been arrested or formally accused of a crime but has merely aroused curiosity or speculation during an investigation perhaps because of his or her quirks, habits or activities. Its use often carelessly and unfairly casts suspicion on the blameless.

Most of the time cooperation with prosecutors pays off with a lighter sentence. It’s a calculated risk. What’s even riskier is going to trial – a true roll of the dice. If you lose, the price you pay will invariably be more jail time. That’s how the system works.  

Dean Reynolds was elected as a trustee in Clinton Township, Mich., in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2012. Township trustees operate much like a city council. Clinton Township has four trustees, who together with the township supervisor, treasurer and clerk, constitute the seven-member Clinton Township Board of Trustees (board), which passes legislation and approves contracts.                                                                    

In 2015, the FBI launched an investigation into systemic corruption in several municipalities in southeastern Michigan, mostly in Macomb County where Clinton Township is located. The probe involved telephone wiretaps, audio and video recordings by “cooperative individuals,” undercover operations, and subpoenas of financial records and other documents. The investigation ultimately led to a federal grand jury indictment of 22 contractors and elected officials, including Reynolds, for receiving and soliciting bribes. 

Reynolds, for his part, was charged with 14 counts of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery relating to programs receiving federal funds. According to prosecutors and contemporary media accounts, he pocketed more than $150,000 in bribes and favors for running four separate schemes in connection with trash collection, engineering services and towing contracts totaling $16 million. Besides selling his own votes, he allegedly provided information on how other trustees voted.        

One of the local contractors was Rizzo Environmental Services (RES), a company that won a waste contract with Clinton Township in 2010. During the previous five years, Waste Management (WM) had been the service provider. Bill Sowerby, who at the time was the township treasurer, told investigators that as the WM contract term wound down, Reynolds supported simply extending it and sidestepping the competitive bid process. Reynolds was initially dismissive of RES, expressing concerns that the company did not treat its employees well. However, after RES eventually submitted the low bid on the 2010 contract, Reynolds joined the other board members in awarding the contract to the company.

The 2010 contract was set to expire in 2014. In the summer of 2013, the board’s Refuse Committee, consistent with its customary practice, unanimously recommended that the township seek bids from other waste contractors for a subsequent garbage contract. However, when the recommendation came to the board for a vote, Reynolds made a motion to award a two-year extension to RES, which was approved by a 4-3 margin. 

The FBI obtained a wiretap on Reynolds’ phone in July 2015, and later on the phone of RES’s top executive, Chuck Rizzo. Through those wiretaps, the FBI learned that Reynolds was receiving bribes from Rizzo in the form of cash payments and payments made to Reynolds’ divorce lawyers. Reynolds also accepted $17,000 from an undercover FBI agent, which was recorded on video.  

Additionally, Rizzo agreed to pay for Reynolds’ psychiatric examination for his divorce proceeding. To disguise the payment, Reynolds asked a friend to sign a fake promissory note that Reynolds’ best friend, Angelo Selva, had prepared. 

In exchange for these payments, Reynolds agreed to secure another contract extension for RES. The extension – for a 10-year term – was unanimously approved in February 2016, but had an opt-out clause that the township could exercise after December 31, 2018.  

Reynolds was arrested in October 2016. According to Selva, shortly after Reynolds was released on bail, he asked Selva to destroy the fake promissory note and other incriminating evidence. They discussed the pending charges, and Reynolds insisted that he was innocent. He claimed that all of the funds he received from Rizzo were legitimate loans. 

Selva was stunned by Reynolds's denial because both of them knew full well the true nature of the payments. Selva might then have bitterly regretted his role in creating the fake note to hide one of the bribes. Reynolds’ attorney apparently got word of what his client had asked Selva to do. He called Selva and told him not to destroy evidence. Selva had not yet done so, and he wisely heeded the attorney’s request.

Selva, a former lawyer, pleaded guilty in 2017 to misprision of a felony – that is, knowing a crime had been committed and not reporting it to authorities in a timely fashion. He also agreed to testify against Reynolds. Selva was later sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Reynolds rejected an agreement with prosecutors that called for him to plead guilty to two counts of bribery conspiracy, cooperate with the government and serve a 10-year prison term. Instead, he took a chance on going to trial. An ill-fated decision. After deliberating for about an hour, a jury found him guilty on all counts. U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland sentenced him to 17 years in prison. “One of the longest corruption sentences in Metro Detroit history,” said The Detroit News.

A federal appeals court rejected Reynolds' challenge to his sentence and affirmed the district court’s judgment. He had argued that the district court misapplied the federal sentencing guidelines, sentenced him disproportionately compared to other similarly situated defendants and imposed a higher sentence as punishment for his electing to go to trial. 

The appellate panel noted that several other co-defendants agreed to plead guilty to certain charges in the scandal. "In addition, several of Reynolds' co-defendants cooperated with the FBI investigation and had other mitigating circumstances that affected their sentencing," the panel wrote in its 21-page ruling. "As a result of this and other factors, each of Reynolds' co-defendants guidelines ranges were much lower than Reynolds' advisory range."

Reynolds is serving his time at a low-security federal correctional institution in Milan, Mich., according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. As for Rizzo, he pleaded guilty, cooperated with investigators, and is now serving a 66-month prison term.

United States v. Reynolds, No. 19-1146, 6th Circ., May 7, 2020.

Need to Know

House Appropriators Signal Support for National Recycling Needs Survey and Assessment


FALLS CHURCH, Va. (July 9, 2020) – The Recycling Partnership applauds the House Appropriations Committee for including a nationwide Recycling Needs Survey and Assessment in its report language released today. The Partnership thanks House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee Chair McCollum, Ranking Member Joyce, the entire subcommittee, and Rep. Schrier for identifying this foundational need for the recycling industry. 

These funds will benefit communities across the country by identifying the resources needed to ensure that it’s as easy for Americans to recycle as it is to throw something away. Specifically, the assessment will help to identify the challenges and opportunities they are facing including: access to curbside recycling; contamination rates (rate of trash in recycling); and the amount of residential materials that are recycled. 

“We applaud the Committee for recognizing the need for greater data in order to strengthen recycling programs across the country,” said Elizabeth Biser, The Recycling Partnership’s Vice President of Policy & Public Affairs. “The Recycling Needs Survey and Assessment will serve as an important first step, helping to identify and prioritize investments and improvements to capture the full economic value of recycling.”

“While this is welcome progress, there is additional work to be done. We urge Congress to finalize the appropriations for the assessment, and support community recycling through measures such as the RECYCLE Act,” Biser continued.

To date, The Recycling Partnership has served more than 1,500 communities and counting with best-in-class tools, data, resources, and technical support, helped place more than 700,000 recycling carts, reached 74 million American households, and helped companies and communities invest more than $53 million in recycling infrastructure. 

The Recycling Partnership is looking forward to continuing to serve as a resource to Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency as they move forward with creating and conducting the assessment. The resulting data will be critical in modernizing American recycling infrastructure, achieving consistent collection across the nation, and capturing the value of materials for the circular economy.

About The Recycling Partnership 

The Recycling Partnership is a national nonprofit organization that leverages corporate partner funding to transform recycling for good in states, cities, and communities nationwide. As the only organization in the country that engages the full recycling supply chain from the corporations that manufacture products and packaging to local governments charged with recycling to industry end markets, haulers, material recovery facilities, and converters. Since 2014, the nonprofit change agent diverted 230 million pounds of new recyclables from landfills, saved 465 million gallons of water, avoided more than 250,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, and drove significant reductions in targeted contamination rates. Learn more at


Need to Know

Flexible Plastic Packaging One Step Closer to Curbside Recycling


The Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF) consortium’s flexible plastic packaging recycling pilot has been deemed successful. The goal of the pilot was to determine if flexible plastic packaging collected loose in residential single-stream carts could be sorted into a commodity bale for reprocessing into recycled-content products. The pilot met four out of five of its performance goals.

In related news, Gerber introduced IncrediPouch, a new single-material baby food pouch. “This early success means we’re one step closer to a future where all baby food pouches can be recycled curbside,” said Sina Hilbert, brand manager and sustainability lead for Gerber. “This also gets us one step closer to our goal of making 100 percent of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.”

Read the original story here.

Episode 65: Ocean Plastic Solutions from Cities, Brands & Waste Collectors (Transcript)


[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hi everyone, welcome to Waste360's NothingWasted! Podcast. On every episode, we invite the most interesting people in waste recycling and organics to sit down with us and chat candidly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and so much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.


[00:00:26] Liz: Hi everyone, this is Liz Bothwell with Susan Ruffo from The Circulate Initiative. Welcome, Susan. Thanks for being on Nothing Wasted today.

[00:00:35] Susan Ruffo: Thanks so much for having me.

[00:00:37] Liz: We're looking forward to talking to you and getting into a lot of what you're working on in terms of the ocean. Can you talk a little bit about The Urban Ocean program and how your group is working with cities to improve their waste management practices?

[00:00:53] Susan: Yes, I'd love to. Urban Ocean is a new program that The Circulate Initiative, Ocean Conservancy, and the Global Resilient Cities Network has just launched with five cities, primarily in South and Southeast Asia, but also including Latin America.

Our goal is really to get all of our partners working together on the issue of ocean plastics, but also unrelated issues that touch on waste management, circularity, public health, and other sorts of sustainability and economic development issues. Our theory is really none of us can do any of these things alone and we can advance all of our priorities if we're working together.

[00:01:37] Liz: Absolutely. Susan, how key are cities in addressing the marine plastic waste problem?

[00:01:43] Susan: To me, they're absolutely key. I take inspiration from the leadership that cities have shown on the climate issue. If you look at places around the world, what cities are doing in terms of reducing emissions, changing transportation, changing buildings, and really leading a lot of the discussion on what can be done on climate, I think cities can do this same thing on the ocean plastic.

I think that's because they sit in a place where they really have a lot of the authority to do what needs to be done in terms of thinking about waste collection, waste management, recycling systems. They also have direct access to their citizens, so they can do public awareness campaigns and education campaigns. They can pass regulations and incentives, like tax incentives, that really can help move things forward. I think they're an absolutely key actor that hasn't been engaged as much as they could and should be, and we're trying to change that.

[00:02:41] Liz: That's great. You've also said that part of the problem is that ocean waste isn't a priority concern for developing nations. How do you make it more of a concern for these governments?

[00:02:53] Susan: I think it's just a question of-- ocean plastic is very hard to put at the top of the agenda when you're dealing with, "Can you fight Covid-19?", for example. Or in the US, some of the issues that we're having now around racial equity. It's just a really hard issue to stand in isolation against some of the other things that governments are dealing with, whether that's poverty, or feeding people, or public health.

I think the key it's not a standalone issue. Ocean Plastic is not just about the ocean, and as soon as we start thinking about it in that way, it becomes much more interesting to city governments.

I wouldn't expect any mayor to tell me this is a number one priority is keeping plastic out of the ocean, but I would be really surprised if a mayor said they weren't interested in public sanitation, picking up trash, their public-- the job that they can create in South and Southeast Asia talking about the informal sector, their safety, and their dignified work. I think when you start to think about it as a broader issue it comes much higher up on the priority list.

[00:04:00] Liz: Definitely. Do you think it's necessary to customize solutions for each country?

[00:04:07] Susan: Every city and every country obviously has its own characteristics. You would never see a Seattle trash truck getting through the streets of Jakarta, for example, that's just not going to work. But cities are facing a lot of the same challenges. I think what we've seen when you look at city networks like the Global Resilient Cities Network is that they can learn from each other when they talk about the fact that they're trying to do a lot of the similar thing.

While Seattle may not be the best example for Pune, India, which is one of our cities in the Urban Ocean program, some around Indonesia may actually have some solutions that are directly relevant to Pune. And there may be some ideas from Pune that are really relevant for Seattle. If we start to think about some of these systems, in some places we're thinking about new ways of doing things. We're not parroting legacy systems like a New York trash system that's been in place for over 100 years.

Some places we're really starting from a very different place and there's an opportunity to think about what can be done.

[00:05:11] Liz: Definitely. That's a great way to look at it. Now, how in general do you envision the circular economy addressing the ocean plastic waste problem?

[00:05:19] Susan: The ocean plastic waste problem needs a whole spectrum of solutions. We need to start right at the beginning with the same principles that the circular economy has, so really thinking about how do we reduce what we're using and buying, how do we redesign and reimagine those products and different ways to deliver them. We need to think about how we really can collect, reuse, recycle the waste and the products that do come from those products, and then get them back and keep them into that system.

If you look at the circle, I always think about essentially waste management and ocean plastic as being a critical piece of filling that circle and keeping it whole. If you only think about the materials, redesign, and all of the other maybe sexier pieces of the puzzle, if those materials, no matter how recyclable they are, no matter how cool they are, if they end up in the ocean, they're still ocean plastic. They're still marine debris and they're still a threat to the environment.

[00:06:21] Liz: Definitely. Regulation is another means to address the problem, but what's the most effective way of doing that?

[00:06:30] Susan: I think regulation is going to be a key piece of the puzzle. I like to talk about policy because I think regulation always has a negative spin on it. It doesn't have to be negative, there are definitely incentives good to be put in place too, so I like to think about both sides of the coin. You need regulation to make sure that you don't have any [unintelligible 00:06:47] and you're keeping everyone up to a standard, but I think there's also incentives that you can put forward that you'll really see people start to innovate and take leadership.

I think there are really good examples around the world of some of the regulations that are having an effect. You can see new things like deposit schemes that have a measurable difference on the amount of plastic and bottles that you find out in the environment when they're put in place. I think there was an interesting lesson we can learn from EPR systems in different places in the world. I think there's also things like patching some things for recycling plants, or even allowing recycling plants to be in different parts of cities that can actually have a big difference in how those systems can work.

I think the key is really no one size fits all. You can't take a system that works in Germany and a few minutes you can plug it into Vietnam and make it work exactly the same, but I think there are definitely lessons we can learn.

[00:07:45] Liz: For sure. I like your positive spin to it because I think that's where you gain traction.

[00:07:51] Susan: Yes. I think there's a lot of commitment out there now on this issue, whether by government at a national level, a local level, from the private sector, from civil society. I think there's a lot of momentum there, and if you can get those leaders working together, I think that's a really critical piece of the puzzle.

I think we are seeing a lot of leadership in developing countries too. Indonesia has some of the most ambitious targets when it comes to reducing marine plastic pollution, so I think we have momentum that we can be taking advantage of. I think the opportunity is to look at how we bring all of those actors together in different ways, because clearly these aren't new problems, and clearly we've always known that everyone has a role to play, but the thing I liked about bringing together our panel was that for the first time you're really getting people thinking about how can we help each other get to where we need to be on our commitment.

[00:08:48] Liz: Absolutely. Speaking of the panel, can you give us an overview of what was discussed and what you see going forward?

[00:08:57] Susan: Yes. We had a great panel as part of the Virtual Ocean Dialogue. We brought together the chief resilience officer from Pune, India, which is one of our Urban Ocean cities. We brought the Global Resilient Cities Network, a representative of Coca-Cola, a representative to the Asian Development Bank, and representatives from WIEGO, which is an organization that works with the informal sector.

Not surprisingly, I think the key conclusion of that was really every one of those sectors is really important to solving the ocean plastic pollution problem, as well as working on waste management. For me, the most interesting conclusion is how they started talking about how they could be working with each other. If you look from the lens of the informal sector, there was a whole discussion about how city policies could really recognize those workers and help them to be more efficient at the same time that it's improving their livelihood.

If you come at it from Coca-Cola's perspective, Coca-Cola has committed to bringing back at least as much material and packaging that they're putting out in the world, but they don't have enough. They don't have the ability to actually go out and collect it themselves, they need to work with cities and others in order to make that happen.

For me it was about how you bring these different pieces together in order to show how they can be woven together in a more efficient way and, at the same time, basically deal with different problems. Not just the ocean plastic problem, but also employment, health, and economic well-being.

[00:10:29] Liz: What a great start, though, to get that pull together, all those constituents, and really growing in the same direction. That's huge, Susan.

[00:10:37] Susan: Honestly, it was a panel, so we could only have so many feeds, but if you really think about that picture, you also need someone from a national government up there because they're going to be key in setting some of the bigger frameworks and making sure systems are funded. You need private investors there, like Circulate Capital, who can really come in and help the small and medium businesses in that chain really develop and succeed.

You need small business people who are out there really being some of the innovators, whether that's a recycler in Indonesia that's going to add a new line to deal with the new material, or someone who is developing a new app in India that will help the informal sector be more efficient in their collection and actually sell directly to a recycling plant that needs what they're collecting.

[00:11:24] Liz: Amazing. I can't wait to watch it. If it's okay with you, we can put a link in our description of the podcast and let our listeners watch at their convenience as well.

[00:11:36] Susan: Yes, that would be great. Thank you.

[00:11:39] Liz: Okay, great. How valuable do you think it would be to reduce the types of plastics? What's been suggested, limited to three, PET, HDPE, and polypropylene. Do you think that will be helpful?

[00:11:55] Susan: I do think that'd be helpful. I'm not saying that those are the right three, I'll let the experts discuss that, but I think the key is simplification. Right now we talk about plastics as if it's one big thing, but when you actually get down to it, it's so many different things with so many additives. Even one product can have multiple different types of plastic in it.

In order for a recycler to be able to handle that product, in order for a city to be able to know how they're supposed to recycle it, it can actually be incredibly complex. Even for the average household. How many times have we all stood in front of a recycling bin and wondered, "Can I put this in or not?" That changes in every city you're in, no matter where in the world you are. Yes, I think simplification is important.

I also think simplification in concert, not only from the plastic manufacturers, the packaging manufacturers, the brands, because a lot of what they want out of their marketing adds to color, complexity, and other things in recycling. Then the cities, who actually receive those materials, they often get no say in what comes into their markets and what they have to deal within their waste streams in their recycling stream. Having the cities actually have a seat at the table and understanding what's coming into the market and how it can be simplified so they can handle it, I think it's critical.

[00:13:15] Liz: Definitely. We hear that a lot from our listeners and our readers, it's, "Okay, we did not have any say in this. You say it's recyclable, but by the time we get it, there's nothing we can do with it, so it ends up in a landfill." I think that's great to get those conversations going and actually find the solution.

[00:13:33] Susan: Yes, exactly. Technically, recyclable isn't good enough, we have to actually be able to recycle it.

[00:13:39] Liz: It's estimated that ocean waste represents more than 100 billion in lost recycling revenue. How much can that economic incentive be a persuasive argument for solutions to this problem?

[00:13:51] Susan: I think it's part of the picture, for sure. I do a lot of work in South and Southeast Asia, so when I think about an economic incentive, I think about the very first piece of that chain which are often informal collectors who were out there picking up things that they can then sell. The only reason they're going to pick it up is if it's worth their time and they can make some money off it because that's how they make their living.

You'll see in a lot of places, because PET bottles have value you won't see them at landfills, you won't see them on the street, you won't see them in the water, because those communities and those collectors are incredibly efficient when they have the right incentives. What you do see are a lot of flexible packaging, small little one-serving sizes of things like shampoo that come in very flexible thin plastic. Those have no value, so they don't get collected and you see them all over the place.

I think you start right at that level all the way up. I think the reality is -and this is where politics comes in- if recycled materials have to compete with virgin plastic, particularly when oil prices are incredibly low, the economics are really just not going to be in our favor. I think that's where policies can come in and help to adjust the scale to basically correct for some of the externalities they can be dealt within the market.

[00:15:16] Liz: Definitely. Did COVID set us back a little bit in dealing with the plastics crisis? With single-use plastics and the bans retreating for a bit?

[00:15:30] Susan: I think it did a little bit. I think the perspectives that we need to go back to single-use plastics because they might be safer, or that people might be afraid of reusable bags, or reusable cups, I think that did set us back a little bit. For me, I think it's also an important reminder, though, that that's, in a way, the tip of the iceberg.

The ban on very specific materials, they're really important. They target some of the materials and some of the things that are most found in the ocean and that cause the most harm to marine life, like straw, like plastics bags. But at the same time, they're a very tiny percentage of the plastics that actually ends up in the ocean. I think it's also as a friendly reminder to us that while that's important, we need to fight this fight on all fronts. That's why I think the waste management piece is so important, because you're dealing with it directly at the source, you're dealing with everything that's coming into the system and you're making it more efficient overall so that those materials never leak into the environment.

I think, yes, we have some grounds to gain back, but I also think that the fact that COVID has highlighted some of the issues that we have within our waste management system -and that's true whether you're in Thailand, or the US, or Europe- I think that will also help us shine a light on the fact that these systems are vulnerable. They're important for many reasons, not just for ocean plastic, and that we can actually do something about them.

[00:17:08] Liz: Is there anything happening in Asia, since you are such a big part of that, that would be a good lesson in the US?

[00:17:16] Susan: Yes, I think there are really interesting discussions that are happening in Vietnam about setting up an EPR Extended Producer Responsibility system and how that might work. I think that discussion we haven't had as much in the US, but I'm aware of. It's interesting to see other countries trying it. It's been in place in places like Germany for a long time, but obviously everything that works in Germany is not necessarily going to work in the US or Vietnam.

I think the discussions around how you apply some of those lessons are interesting. Not that Vietnam system will work directly for the US, but how you can adapt them to local circumstances. For me, those are some of the really interesting discussions. I also think there's a lot of interest in actually investing in innovation in these countries, both because of the priority to start up new businesses, have new jobs, get economic development. I think there are lessons to be learned in terms of how do you bring new entrepreneurs into the sector.

No offense, but the way sectors sort garbage and trash pickup isn't always the first thing that entrepreneurs want to when you think about a startup and what that looks like, so our work has been really focused on how do you show people that this is a really exciting sector and you can have a real impact, you can actually make money, and that there's room for innovation. I think there's some lessons that the US can learn on that front from places like Indonesia where there's a lot more open, I think, to these new ideas.

[00:18:56] Liz: Definitely. Data seems to be a key in making change in a lot of areas. Is collecting data on ocean plastic waste really challenging?

[00:19:09] Susan: It is. I'm not an expert on waste systems, but my understanding is those can be challenging in and of themselves. When you think about where the materials go after they are saved from a waste system, how they might leak out, where they go into the environment, how they get to the ocean, it becomes really difficult. This is still a relatively new field. We really only got the first estimates of how much plastic is going into the ocean in 2015.

There was a paper that was published in Science by Dr. Jenna Jambeck and a group of her colleagues. That was the first time that we really were able to actually get a grip on the volume, but that was using national-level data, it was done with modeling from the World Bank sources and information. It was a good first estimate, but I think that it's a hard place for us to start because if you're working at a city level or an enterprise level, it's really hard to translate that into, "Well, this is what's coming from my city and therefore I have to do this because this is where it's leaking".

I think one of our big challenges is how do we start to get baselines that are appropriate for action and how do we start to measure the impact that we're having, whether it's a plastic ban, or recycled content standard, or a beach cleanup, because we don't necessarily know how much impact each one of those things would have.

[00:20:44] Liz: Definitely. Like you're saying, to actually monitor and measure what we're doing to see if it's working, that will be extremely important. I'd read a little bit about your Incubation Network, can you talk a little bit about that?

[00:21:03] Susan: Yes. One of our big programs is The Incubation Network. We're working with partners across South and Southeast Asia, incubators, accelerators, we work with SecondMuse, which is an innovation company that looks at how you build ecosystems. The idea behind that is really how do you attract entrepreneurs into this sector, have them thinking about ocean plastic; and the circular economy, the full circle, everything from new materials all the way through to collection, cleanup, and what you do with the materials that you find.

The network is designed to basically find those entrepreneurs, bring them into the system, give them the tools they need to be successful entrepreneurs, like any incubator would. Helping them with business practices, but also to think about what are the conditions that are needed for those entrepreneurs to succeed. You need enabling policies, you need public education, public participation in a waste system, market, as you said, and demand for some of their products. The Incubation Network is designed to help the innovators themselves, but also help create the ecosystems around them that are going to allow them to see.

[00:22:18] Liz: That's great. I'd love to eventually learn more about that too. 

[00:22:23] Susan: Absolutely. We have some very cool innovators that are coming through our programs now, so it'd be fun to talk more about that and love introduce you to them.

[00:22:33] Liz: That would be great. How do you think climate change affects the plastics problem?

[00:22:39] Susan: I think there are complicated relationships there. Clearly virgin plastic, virgin resin is coming from fossil fuels. Developing that industry is never good for climate change, so I think we have to be really aware of that and the loops there, but when we start to talk about alternative materials, alternative delivery systems, that has helped climate implications too.

I think one of the really challenging things is really thinking about, "Well, if we ban one type of plastic, if we encourage companies to go back to glass, or to aluminum, or to paper, what does that mean for climate footprints?" Because a lot of companies actually moved to plastic in an effort to reduce emissions. They were like, "Plastics materials are lighter weight", they're able to transport them with many fewer emissions. I think we need to be honest with ourselves about the types of trade-offs that are on the table when we look at it and we make sure we look at the whole picture. I absolutely think that we need to be keeping climate in mind. It's not the biggest threat to the ocean right now, as well is for the rest of the planet.

[00:23:51] Liz: Definitely. Do you think any green stimulus packages could be part of a solution for this?

[00:23:57] Susan: Absolutely. My hope is that when we start to think about stimulus packages and recovery packages that we're thinking in a much more forward-looking way than we often have the luxury of doing. The way I think about it is I worked on Hurricane Sandy recovery several years ago in the US, and all the federal programs that were basically designed at that time were designed such that they encourage people to think about the impacts of climate change.

When they rebuilt, they will be building for future conditions, not the past conditions. Whether that would sea-level rise, or more rain, or more frequent storms. I think that's what we need to be doing now as we think about our green stimulus packages, our COVID recovery packages, we need to think about the vulnerabilities that we know are in the system, that have been uncovered in the system, and address those.

For the waste system, again, I'm not an expert, but I think if we can find the right experts and really sit down and think about that. What does that look like? What do we need to do about it? How do we start to encourage the simplification of materials that we talked about earlier? Perhaps there are more decentralized waste management systems that are more resilient, but also more effective and employ more people, if you're looking at places like Southeast Asia, in a more dignified manner.

I think there is a really important way that we need to think about this. I hate to use the word opportunity when you're talking about COVID, but I think in this case there is an opportunity for us to learn and do better.

[00:25:37] Liz: Definitely. You need to really take advantage of that when it happens. Whether it's an unfortunate thing like COVID or not, we have to find the bright spot somewhere, I think.

[00:25:49] Susan: Yes, exactly. If you think about it even just from an unemotional perspective, we don't want to be investing in things that we know are going to be vulnerable or broken in the future. It's just smart investment if you think about how we're going to spend this money wisely now to create systems that are going to be much more resilient in the future.

[00:26:14] Liz: Definitely. Susan, the big question, do you think the plastics crisis will be solved during our lifetime?

[00:26:20] Susan: I have to be optimistic about this, but, yes, I do. The reason I do is because I'm seeing groups coming together that haven't worked together before. When you get mayors, and chief resilience officers, and waste managers of cities sitting down with Coca-Cola and informal workers collected on conservation organizations, I think that's a really good sign because I think everyone has something to learn from each other.

I also think this is a solvable problem. We see it, it's tangible in ways that things like climate change maybe aren't always to us, so it's very real and present in everyone's lives. While there is room for innovation, new science, and new materials, there are also some very simple solutions. We know how to do this, we know we can pick up trash, we know reusable delivery models. We started with milkman and glass bottles for beverages. There's a lot of things here that we already know how to do, we just need to think about how we can reapply some of those [inaudible 00:27:30] and work them out in our complicated system. I'm optimist.

[00:27:36] Liz: That's great. Like you said -and I hadn't even realized- you said that the first time that we've seen the volume of plastics, that paper didn't come out until 2015, so I think progress has already been made. Even panels like yours getting those groups together, seeing a bigger picture, and all working toward that, it gives me a positive outlook as well, so thank you. Before we go, Susan, is there anything else you wanted to share with our listeners?

[00:28:08] Susan: No. As I said to you before, I am really excited to be having this conversation with you and that your listeners are interested and engaged on the ocean plastic issue. I think we in the conservation community have a lot to learn about the waste management sector, but I feel it is such a key part of the solution that the more people that are thinking about this and getting engaged, the faster we're going to be able to solve this problem.

[00:28:38] Liz: Definitely. Thank you so much for all the work that you're doing. We look forward to hearing more about the great work that you're doing in Asia and beyond. Thank you so much, this has been great and gives us all a lot to think about.

[00:28:52] Susan: Thank you very much for having me. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

[00:28:56] Liz: Sounds great. Thanks, Susan.


Episode 64: Talking EREF & the Resilience of the Waste Industry (Transcript)


[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hi everyone, welcome to Waste360's NothingWasted! Podcast. On every episode, we invite the most interesting people in waste recycling and organics to sit down with us and chat candidly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and so much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.


[00:00:27] Liz: Hi everyone, this is Liz Bothwell from Waste360 with Scott Dols founder and CEO of Big Truck Rental, and proud board member of EREF. Welcome, Scott, thanks for being on the show today.

[00:00:40] Scott Dols: You're welcome, I'm glad to be here.

[00:00:43] Liz: Scott, we usually start in the beginning, can you give us a little bit of your background in your journey, and into this wonderful industry?

[00:00:52] Scott: Absolutely. Gosh, it seems like yesterday, but it's been over 25 years. I started working with a company called Trucks and Parts in Tampa, they refurbished garbage trucks. The Goldenberg family. From there, a few years later we started Big Truck Rental, which is now my primary focus where we rent garbage trucks all over North America, the US, and Canada.

I've been involved with EREF for 20 plus years, I was very active with the National Waste and Recycling Association, I was a former chairman of the board for a few years there. I've been pretty active in the industry, it's an amazing place to spend your career.

[00:01:45] Liz: It really is. I know you've been lauded for building this Big Truck Rental from the ground up, and you still oversee day-to-day operations, right?

[00:01:57] Scott: Correct, yes. I oversee day-to-day operations. It's interesting, we started with six trucks in Texas, and our fleet now spans all of North America. It's been a lot of fun watching it grow, I've had great support from the industry as well.

[00:02:15] Liz: Amazing, we love a success story like that. Like we said, you're a board member and a huge supporter of EREF. Can you share from your experience, why you think EREF is so important to you, and the industry at large?

[00:02:30] Scott: Yes, sure. Back in the late '90s, early '2000s, EREF was coming out of their shell a little bit, I was fortunate enough to watch all this happen. As time has gone on, I've had the ability to meet a lot of our shareholders in the industry, as well as a lot of our students and graduates.

Probably, most importantly though some of the amazing work that they've done regards to different projects, whether it's something with landfill management, how to properly getting out of a truck, or what maintenance is good. It's really brought science to the industry. From people standing on the sidelines, and listening to EREF, I now see our industry leaders coming to EREF for guidance on projects, guidance on certain ways to do things, and it's been a 180 degree turn from where we were 20 plus years ago.

[00:03:40] Liz: Great. I know COVID-19 has changed many of our plans. At the top of that list is WasteExpo, and the EREF auction, among others. It's great to see that EREF has pivoted to an online auction, could you share with our listeners why folks should still bid online, and support EREF mission?

[00:04:02] Scott: Absolutely. One of the disappointing things of COVID-19 is the fact that we are not going to be able to come together as an industry in person this year at our annual show WasteExpo. WasteExpo has been an extremely important part of EREF growth over the years with their live auction where we have many manufacturers that donate bodies, like Heil, McNeilus, and New Way. We have Mack that donates international trucks, etcetera. It raises, literally, hundreds of thousands of dollars, actually, millions of dollars for the research, for the industry.

I've been around EREF for 20 plus years, it's been really amazing to watch it evolve from this pipeline, trying to figure out how science and waste go together to being a leader in that space. Instead of giving data, and facts all the time, there's now data in facts, you're actually seeing people come to them, and ask them to help them prove something right, or wrong, "What happens when I do this? How does this make sense?" It's not just the environment, it's everything that surrounds waste. Whether it's how you get on, and out of a truck properly, or how the leachate it's managed downstream, it's a pretty broad spectrum.

A few years back, we started what we called our silent auction, that's what's moving timeline this year. We've already had our equipment auction virtually as well as our CEO auction virtually, which was a huge success. A big shout out to all of the CEOs that participated in that, it's you guys that really helped make the difference in us to going to the next level. Again, thank you for your support on that, as chairman of the Development Committee it's good to see such great participation from our privately and publicly held companies. Again, thank you for that.

The online auction is extremely critical because it's going to put us over the top for the year. There's some great opportunities, whether it's having a whiskey tasting, getting some NFL sign memorabilia, or going to a football game. Hopefully, there will be football this year. If we don't have football, I'm not sure what's going to happen to America.


[00:06:46] Scott: With that, we've been able to use IronClad, a part of Ritchie Brothers really supporting us, and giving the format for the online auction, that really makes it easy and simple for you as the bidder to really bid up your products. We hope that everybody participates because it's a lot of fun.

[00:07:08] Liz: It's so great to see that they are getting so much support. Do you see more of the industry participating? Can you encourage them, even though it's maybe a tough year for some? Do the packages vary in price and things like that, Scott?

[00:07:24] Scott: Yes. There's things as simple as an iPad, all the way up to going to a football game, or like I said a whiskey tasting, even a couple of big dinners. I know that everybody is in a holding pattern, especially, with our current state of affairs, and in the US where we have a pandemic going on, but there's so many more reasons to participate than not.

We're not talking about tens of thousands of dollars here, we're talking about a few hundred bucks making the difference between whether we're able to give away five scholarships next year, or seven scholarships. That's really what this is for. I do understand that everybody is in a holding pattern, but every now and then, you got to step outside, and actually have a little fun.

This COVID will pass, we'll figure it out, we're slowly figuring that out. Definitely, as an industry, we've figured it out, we're getting better and better on it. I would really appreciate if everyone would participate, it's super easy to log on, there's a simple click, it's an easy process. By the way, when you get outbid, you get notified, you get to rebid. Rise those prices up, please.

[00:08:47] Liz: [laughs] I know, I'm a particular NFL game myself. I look forward to getting notified [laughs].

[00:08:54] Scott: I believe we went live yesterday, correct?

[00:08:57] Liz: Yes.

[00:08:58] Scott: From the 15th?

[00:08:59] Liz: Yes, it went live. Hopefully, the bids are already coming in, there's some great packages, in a biased way, there's also a WasteExpo package in there. I think there's a lot of variety in there too, a lot of the packages that people have come to appreciate and expect when they're in person at WasteExpo as well. It's still fun, and it gives people something to look forward to. Like you said, the pandemic will not last forever.

[00:09:26] Scott: Yes. That's the thing, there's some fun stuff on there. If you go out, and get it now, you have something to look forward to, whether it's two months from now, four months from now. Even, next WasteExpo. This industry has done such a great job of standing behind each other, it's going to be an amazing time next year when we're all together, and we're looking back at this thinking about all the success that we've had through this.

Again, I encourage everybody to get online, register, you'll be included, there's part of the process of actually being participant within the industry as opposed to just existing in the industry.

[00:10:15] Liz: Absolutely. I know you mentioned some of the scholarships, what have you seen on that front? EREF has been so amazing about the scholarships, and supporting all the young, intelligent people coming through this industry. What are your thoughts on that, Scott?

[00:10:35] Scott: It's quite amazing when you think about the people that work at EREF, and have worked at EREF. We've had a number of scholars that have, actually, come into EREF, have interned, stayed on, and done other things, and then, at some point it moved on to academia to further their career in learning, or to further their opportunity to teach what they've learned.

It's great to see these young minds coming through, I don't have the exact statistics, but I do know that when it comes to scholarship time we, as a board, have a group that vets the scholars. Once they figure out who they want back, they bring it to the board then, we do a full vote on it at the board.

It was amazing to me when we first started we just could do a couple here and there. Now, we're consistently raising our bar every year. Not only that, what's happened is that we're actually getting out to the universities, and into the university systems. Now, the quality of our students has become tremendous. Sometimes, it's literally a thousandth of a point that separates from one person getting a scholarship, and one person not. It's pretty amazing when you look at the backgrounds of these individuals, and what they're trying to study. It's quite amazing.

[00:12:08] Liz: It really is. They are taking the industry to the next level, it's wonderful that the support is there, and really encouraging people to get into the industry as well.

[00:12:18] Scott: Yes. If you think that it doesn't make a difference if you go ahead and bid on something from the auction, but it does. Sometimes, a hundred dollars, two hundred dollars, or whatever it is, really does make a difference. More importantly, why would you want somebody else to have something that you want?

[00:12:40] Liz: [laughs] So true. I know, Scott, we talked about COVID, its impact on live events, and the auction. How is it impacting your business? What have you seen?

[00:12:54] Scott: One of the things about the waste industry that I've seen over the years, we've been through a couple up and downs in the economy, we had the Great Recession that happened, we've had this pandemic now. Prior to that, we had the dot-com burst. One of the things about the waste industry is that it's extremely resilient. On this very short term because of the unknown, everybody took a pause. It wasn't till a few weeks into the shutdown that we saw the industry rally around, and figure out how to overcome this challenge.

The company saw a huge increase in residential volumes, and a big decrease in commercial volumes. They figured out how to handle the trash, how to keep all the streets clean, and everybody safe from everything that was surrounding them. They have done a great job with the personal protection gear, and making sure that their employees, their drivers, and everybody that works within the industry is safe.

It truly is an essential industry when you look at what's essential, and what's not essential. A big shout out to everybody that works so hard to keep the rest of us safe throughout this pandemic.

[00:14:21] Liz: Absolutely. They haven't missed a beat, it's really impressive. Most of them are doing it with a smile on their face, it's much appreciated.

[00:14:31] Scott: Yes, for sure. It's been a very interesting learning process for a lot of us, and a lot of the companies out there. It's the resilience of the industry that shows more and more every time something comes along.

[00:14:47] Liz: It really does. Like you said, we'll get through this like every other one that you mentioned.

[00:14:52] Scott: That is correct, yes.

[00:14:53] Liz: Scott, you have an entrepreneurial streak, what's next for you, and BTR?

[00:14:59] Scott: We keep doing what we're doing every day, providing quality products and services to our customers, continuing to expand our footprint across North America. We're very excited about, we've grown up from two employees to almost 30 in the last few years, it's been great. We have a great team. I think keeping everybody focused on what we're trying to accomplish is really where we want to go, and what we're trying to do. I'm getting old, it's time to maybe pass the torch at some point.

[00:15:40] Liz: [laughs] Good thinking, let's see if they let you go [laughs].

[00:15:46] Scott: [laughs] They'll probably close the door on me.

[00:15:52] Liz: [laughs] We'll see, they may beg to differ, but we will watch for sure [laughs]. Scott, what do you think is EREF lasting impact on the industry?

[00:16:03] Scott: I think EREF will continue to bring science to the industry, will help the companies do a better job of managing their processes, and what goes on with our waste and recycling throughout the country. EREF is expanded into Canada now, they're actually doing some things in Canada, that's pretty exciting as well.

I think there's so much more for them to continue to study, look at it, and see where things are going. It's a pretty exciting track for them. I don't see Bryan, his team, and the rest of the board slowing down at all, I think they're going to continue to hike that mountain, and make sure that they get to the top. As time goes on, I think we're going to see more and more technology, we're going to see more data, and we're going to see more science in how we do things as an industry.

[00:17:06] Liz: Absolutely. To your point, it makes EREF even more valuable.

[00:17:10] Scott: Absolutely. I think it's one of those opportunities where if you come along with us, you're going to have a very fun ride, you're going to learn, it's going to be a great opportunity whether you're a business owner, whether you're an employee, or whether you're part of a public company. There's a little bit of something for everybody there.

[00:17:32] Liz: That's great. Before you go, because I know you're a busy man, is there anything else you'd like to share about the EREF auction, or the organization itself?

[00:17:41] Scott: Yes. I'd have said it several times, but this is truly an opportunity for at the auction and the silent auction to getting online, it's truly the opportunity for you to get in at the ground level, and start to experience some of the stuff with EREF. It'll give you the opportunity to interact with the EREF staff as they call you to collect your dollars that you just spent on the auction. They'll call you to thank you, and see if there's anything else that you would like. It's an opportunity for people to get involved. I would encourage everybody to get involved, let's have some fun.

[00:18:18] Liz: Thank you so much, Scott. We look forward to bidding, seeing who bids, really supporting EREF, and their mission. They're lucky to have board members like you. Thank you for your time today.

[00:18:30] Scott: You're very welcome, thanks for your time as well. Everybody, please, be safe out there.

[00:18:35] Liz: You too, Scott. Thanks again. I'm with you, the NFL season has to happen, fingers crossed.


[00:18:42] Scott: Agreed.

[00:18:44] Liz: [laughs] All right, thanks, Scott. I'll talk to you soon.

[00:18:48] Scott: Thank you, have a great day. Bye-bye.


Need to Know

Vermont A Model for States Looking to Address Food Waste


In an effort to divert 50 percent of all waste from landfills to facilities where it can be composted, recycled, or reused, the State of Vermont has implemented a statewide ban on food waste, known as the Food Scrap Ban, in July. Vermont is the first state to implement a ban on food waste to individuals.

Research shows that food waste is a significant source of methane gas and affects the warming the atmosphere.

Vermont residents are now required to compost food such as vegetables peels, egg shells and pits, either in their yard or through a professional compost facility. Prior to the ban, 72 percent of residents were composting at home or fed their food scraps to livestock, according (University of Vermont).

The state invested in a robust composting infrastructure, which includes new equipment, expanded curbside pick-up or drop-off services and build anaerobic digesters to turn the compost into energy. 

Read the original article here.


What Can the Food Waste Movement Learn from the Movement for Black Lives? (Commentary)


Let’s get this out of the way. I’m not going to say, “It’s all about elevating black lives to their highest potential,” or “Let’s not let black lives go to waste, the way we let food go to waste.” That’s not the point.

While there are similarities between the movement for black lives and the food waste movement, there is also a glaring difference: the food waste movement is, generally, not diverse. I say this claim without quantitative data to back it up, because no one is tracking diversity within the food waste movement, the way corporations track gender and racial diversity in board leadership. 

This is a problem for the food waste industry, because the first step toward inclusivity is knowing where one stands. More research should be done to track diversity in leadership in food waste businesses and organizations. Only then can we proactively work toward equity. 

And being proactive is totally necessary at this moment. There is no longer room for seeing racial injustice as “not our lane,” “not relevant to my industry,” or, as my colleague, Alesha Hartley, says, a matter of “relegating lack of diversity to a pipeline issue.” We can’t throw up our hands and claim, “There just aren’t enough applicants of color for us to create a diverse leadership team at our organization.” At this point in history, we know that’s bull. The pipeline of diverse applicants is empty by design, and those of us in power have to do the most work to fight against the great inertia of history to fill it. 

As an industry, and as an environmental movement, the food waste industry can do better. 

During my seven-year stint as executive director of Denver Food Rescue (DFR), we took diversity in leadership to the far end of the spectrum. Most notably, we assembled a board of directors composed entirely of representatives from the low-income communities where we redistributed the food we rescued from grocery stores and wholesalers. The vast majority of these individuals had zero board experience and were low-income residents themselves. “You can’t do that!” we heard a million times, “the organization will fall apart without experienced leaders!” Comments like this allow the pipeline myth to pervade. 

When I left DFR, the community-led board of directors made the difficult but correct decision to hire Christine Alford as executive director. Four years earlier, the powerful, charismatic and hilarious leader Alford had encountered DFR at one of our No-Cost Grocery Programs, picking up free food for her family. She then volunteered and worked at DFR for years until she was the not-so-obvious applicant for executive director. Alford didn’t go to college and had no executive leadership experience. By this time, DFR had a significant budget and staff, and we heard the same old, “You can’t hire her! The organization will flounder!”

But look at DFR today, and you see a food waste and health equity organization that is stronger than ever. It is rescuing millions of dollars’ worth of food and serving hundreds of thousands of food-insecure people every year.

The reality is that people with lived experience of a problem come up with the best solutions, regardless of their résumés. Food waste, like other environmental problems, affects low-income and communities of color disproportionately more than wealthier, whiter communities. People of color should have more leadership roles in the food waste industry – not as a diversity initiative, but as a success strategy.

This isn’t always easy. In the first three quarters since Upcycled Food Association was founded, we have failed to live our values of equity and inclusivity, as is apparent in our mainly white leadership. I take responsibility for this failure, and as an organization, we own it as an opportunity for improvement. We’re putting into place a handful of initiatives that will support upcycled food businesses with founders/leaders of color, such as lowering membership dues to address the fact that more than 77 percent of venture-backed founders are white, according to RateMyInvestor and DiversityVC. We’re also changing our leadership election criteria to ensure we maintain a diverse – and therefore effective – board of directors and staff.

Then there’s the other glaring difference. Food waste is a topic anyone can become an expert in if they so please. The experiences of black people living in America cannot be fully understood on such a whim but only through experience itself. As a straight, white, able-bodied male in America, I have been given many privileges I neither worked for nor deserve, and one of them is the ability to choose to ignore racism if I so choose. Therefore, I can never be an expert, only a microphone.

It’s not about not letting food go to waste, per se. It’s about recognizing the inherent value within food. Just as it’s not simply about reducing the amount of police violence, it’s about recognizing the value of black life, and letting thatvalue be the force behind reduced violence. We shouldn’t be fighting against police violence, or even racism, because we hate those things. We should be fighting against those things because we love black people; because black lives matter. I’m thinking back to the adage, attributable to actress Amandla Stenberg: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”

The fight against food waste should be driven by a similar philosophy. I talk to people all the time who say, “I hate food waste!” Turns out, most people agree. Ninety-five percent of people want to reduce food waste in their lives, according to Mattson, a food product consulting firm. That’s a good place to start, but it’s not the motivation that is going to spur a global environmental movement. No matter how much we hate food waste, it can never compare to how much we love food. 

So, when building solutions to food waste, start with love. Start by loving food, and we will see far less food waste. Start with love for black people, and we will see less racism. 

Start there, but don’t end there. Loving black people is not the same as fighting for black lives. Loving food is not the same as actually preventing food from going to waste. We cannot let our love blind us to blatant injustice or keep us from fighting for the world we want to create.

Growing a Globally Competitive U.S. Recycling Industry for Lithium-Ion Batteries


In February 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy launched the ReCell Center, an advanced battery recycling R&D center, to solve the problem of how to recycle lithium-ion batteries in the United States. ReCell is a consortium consisting of Argonne National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of California San Diego, Michigan Technological University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Since the launch, ReCell’s scientists have made pivotal discoveries in direct cathode recycling, recovering other materials, design for recycling, and modeling and analysis. Waste360 recently spoke with ReCell Center director Jeff Spangenberger about his take on circularity, the economics of lithium-ion recycling, and end-of-life vehicles, among other topics.

Waste360: Can you tell us about ReCell’s Lithium-ion Battery Recycling Analysis (LIBRA) and what your team is learning from it? 

Jeff Spangenberger: LIBRA is a systems dynamic model that is under development to evaluate the macro-economic viability of the battery recycling industry and global supply chain under differing dynamic conditions. It can help us understand the factors that affect the financial viability of battery recycling. It includes required investments, industry build-out, and the impact of achieving research and programmatic goals.

Waste360: Do you think the onus should reside with battery manufacturers to ensure that their products have a built-in circularity?

Jeff Spangenberger: I think it is important for every manufacturer to do what is reasonably possible to allow for circularity. But I do not think battery manufacturers necessarily need to be more responsible than any other product manufacturer. I am not familiar with that many products that include design for recycle as a main metric in their development. Most products that are effectively recycled are typically done so because there is in an inherent economic incentive.

Waste360: Your team is hoping to be ready for pilot-scale demonstrations by 2022. What are some milestones you're hoping to reach in the meantime? 

Jeff Spangenberger: There are a lot of waste products generated during the battery manufacturing process, and economically recycling that alone has the opportunity to make an impact on battery, and therefore electric vehicle, costs.

Waste360: What sorts of impacts could consumers expect to see as a result of your team's work? 

Jeff Spangenberger: Making lithium-ion battery recycling more profitable will result in lower costs for batteries and the vehicles they are put into. It will also help smooth out price fluctuations due to supply chain issues.

Waste360: Lithium-ion batteries have been the cause of a number of fires at waste and recycling facilities. What hope can you offer to the workers and managers who are growing increasingly frustrated by these issues?

Jeff Spangenberger: Battery researchers are working hard to increase the safety of lithium-ion batteries. At the same time, education will greatly help this issue. Many people do their best to do the right thing and recycle their products with lithium-ion batteries in them. But often they just don’t know what the best thing is. For example, many folks put their lithium-ion batteries and devices in the recycling bin, which makes sense, but in most cases is not correct.

Waste360: Is there anything recyclers could be doing now to prepare for the lithium-ion battery recycling ways of the future?

Jeff Spangenberger: We are working with battery recyclers big and small to be sure that the U.S. thrives in this industry. It is going to be a group effort to make it the best it can be, and we are excited to be a part of that. Electric vehicles using lithium-ion batteries are only now starting to reach the end of their lives. Because of that, it is difficult to justify building a lot of recycling facilities, because there just isn’t enough material yet. But that is going to change over the next several years. Within the decade there will be plenty of batteries to justify the investment, and I anticipate U.S. players taking full advantage and setting up fully viable lithium-ion battery recycling facilities. 

Waste360: How will you go about educating the public about the availability of lithium-ion battery recycling opportunities?

Jeff Spangenberger: The beautiful thing about end-of-life vehicles is that it’s easy for the public to do the right thing. There is an entire infrastructure that handles vehicles when they reach the end of the road, and about 95% of all cars and light trucks end up in that infrastructure. Vehicle recyclers remove pollutants and usable parts, and they will likely be the ones taking the batteries out of electric vehicles. The rest of the vehicle, the hulk, is then shredded and the metals are recycled.

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Need to Know

Australians are Wasting Less Food Amid COVID-19


 In Australia, residents are wasting less food during COVID-19. The Australian NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment released a new study by the Love Food Hate Waste program that shows 86 percent of people are glad to live in a country like Australia that grows its own food and 70 percent appreciate farmers more. The goal of the study was to understand food management practices during COVID-19 and if changes in behavior would keep these practices following the pandemic. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they are determined to waste less food due to the lockdown experience.

“Given the impacts of food waste on the environment, including emissions from landfill and the waste of resources in growing food only to throw it away, these findings pave the way for us all to maintain these habits which waste less food,” said Department's Love Food Hate Waste program manager Amanda Kane. 

Read the original story here.