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Need to Know

Are Chefs the Missing Ingredient in Circular Food Systems?


At the Big Food Workshop hosted online by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation last week, Brazilian chef Alex Atala observed that talking about biodiversity and conservation only accomplishes so much. But “when you taste biodiversity, there’s a new meaning and new value." 

Atala and three other chefs from around the world spoke about cultivating a circular economy for food and how "we as chefs are the strongest voice in the food chain in this moment.”

Copenhagen-based chef Kim Wejendorp, who is known for his restaurant’s zero-waste kitchen, believes "it’s a matter of deriving flavor from otherwise byproducts or what would be considered waste in commercial kitchens. It’s not enough to ask people to put something on the plate because it’s the right thing to do. We want people to enjoy it.”

Wejendorp also calls on home cooks to do their part: "Anybody looking down at a cutting board that’s about to sweep whatever they’ve got leftover in the bin, stop and ask yourself, ‘Have you done enough with what you have there to pay respect to the amount of work and effort and resources it took to get those ingredients in front of you in the first place?’"

View the original article here.

Need to Know

Recycling Technologies Hires Seven Apprentices from Honda


Swindon, July 2, 2020

Recycling Technologies Ltd (‘Recycling Technologies’), a specialist plastic recycling technology provider announces today it has hired seven apprentices to join the company from Honda.  The apprentices will join the company’s scheme to develop their technical, academic and engineering skills.  The business has partnered with Swindon College to enable these apprentices to attain academic qualifications at the College, whilst gaining experience as part of Recycling Technologies’ high value manufacturing team.

Recycling Technologies has developed a technology that can recycle plastic waste into a valuable feedstock for new plastic production. The RT7000 is a scalable patented technology that recycles low-grade plastic waste into a feedstock, trademarked as Plaxx®, for new plastic production. It enables the creation of value from plastic waste, which is today difficult to recycle through current mechanical recycling methods and is therefore disposed of through landfilling, incineration or exported.

Penny Grobler, HR Director said, “We are delighted to have brought seven new apprentices from Honda on board.  Following the announcement of its closure last year, we worked closely with Honda’s apprenticeship team to identify opportunities for apprentices, as we knew they would be highly motivated, keen to learn new skills and attain academic qualifications.  We are proud to have launched our apprenticeship programme, in conjunction with Swindon College, to include formal qualifications, engineering and other general business skills.  This will allow valued employees of all ages to develop life-long skills whilst attaining valuable academic qualifications.  Apprenticeships are key to developing our team, our business and supporting employment in the Swindon community.”

Dale Rautenbach, Manufacturing Director said, “We are always looking to recruit talented employees as we grow our business.  We have developed a unique and specialist technology to recycle plastic. These apprentices are integral to our future and the development of a skilled workforce allows us to manufacture our specialist plastic recycling machinery from our base in Swindon.”  

Tomasz Piela, a Honda apprentice joining Recycling Technologies said, “I used to work as a production operative at Honda on its assembly line before moving over to the technical apprenticeship.  Its closure at the time was unexpected, and I needed to find another opportunity.  I’m delighted to be joining Recycling Technologies in its apprentice scheme.  This will allow me to learn more about engineering and enhance my career prospects.  It’s very exciting to be working at a company developing and manufacturing specialist plastic recycling equipment.”


About Recycling Technologies

UK-based company, Recycling Technologies, is on a mission to accelerate the evolution of plastic into a more sustainable material. Currently, 88% of the plastic used in the world is either buried, burned or leaked into the environment1. This means that the world recycles only 12% of the 359 million tons of plastic produced each year2. Recycling Technologies has developed an innovative technology, the RT7000, which turns hard-to-recycle plastic such as films, bags, laminated plastics into an oil, called Plaxx®, used as a feedstock for new plastic production. The RT7000 is modular and small-scale, designed to fit easily onto existing waste treatment and recycling sites, providing a scalable solution to recycle waste plastic anywhere in the world. For further information, please visit www.recyclingtechnologies.co.uk. 

Recycling Technologies contacts

Simon Eaton – Crofton Communications - tel. +44 7879617802 |[email protected]

Need to Know

City Harvest Finds Spike in Food Need Due to COVID-19


Following the COVID-19 pandemic, more New Yorkers than ever are relying on food banks for their meals.

While nearly a third of the food banks in New York have shuttered, City Harvest, New York City’s largest food rescue organization, is working at 177 percent overdrive to feed the New Yorkers that are in need of food. The organization has been running 24 hours a day, five days a week and they have distributed over 22.2 million pounds of food. 

As the need for food continues to grow, City Harvest is creating new plans to prepare for food shortages to make sure no one goes hungry. The organization expects to rescue and deliver 17 million more pounds of food than projected.

“To me, the pandemic has set a new precedent. I've seen first-hand the lines at food pantries. When I get off work, there's a food pantry called Catholic Charities that I pass every day. Now, the line is literally a square-block, and I've never seen anything like it, even through Sandy, 9/11, and the partial-government shut down. One day, I saw the line at the pantry, and I stopped and asked one of the staff members, ‘Do you have enough food to feed all of the people lined up?’ He took me around the corner and guess what was there—a City Harvest tractor-trailer delivering food. It sent chills through me,” said Lex Wilder, Food Operations Liaison.

Learn more about City Harvest here.


Makings of a Good Landfill Closure Plan

Courtesy of HDR and Sarasota County ClosedLandfill.png

Landfill closure plans should start from the day a site is permitted, continue through its active life and, all along, operators should consider what they will need to show regulators once they are ready to install the final cap. They will need to demonstrate gas and leachate collections systems and stormwater management systems are operating in a manner to ensure the site is “functionally stable,” meaning waste won’t pose a significant risk to the environment or human health. (See here)

They must demonstrate they are financially positioned to support what is typically a 30-year post closure term.  And there needs to be advanced planning to the extent possible for future potential uses of the site once it’s done taking in trash.

IMAGE 1 Closure and Post Closure Care.jpg

Closure plans, and the eventual termination of post closure care, ideally involve developing site-specific criteria, and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) encourages operators and regulators to coordinate on these criteria.  Coordination requires having good data, which operators should be collecting even before they close a portion of the landfill, says Jeff Murray, landfill practice leader at engineering firm HDR.  

“Get your house in order with respect to data on the generation and quality of landfill gas and leachate so you have an understanding of baselines representing how systems are performing prior to closure construction. If you are collecting good data while operating the collection systems, you can track trends of gas and leachate quality and generation rates,” says Murray. 

Data on landfill gas, specifically, will provide a good understanding of when operators can stop actively pulling gas and maybe go to a passive collection system where they convert vertical wells to vent direct to the atmosphere.

Facilities reaching the end of the 30-year post closure term may very well move toward a passive custodial approach that’s less intensive, with less associated costs.  

“You may be able to shut off gas collection systems when gas volume is sufficiently reduced. Though there is less clarity on how you can take a more passive approach with leachate management. However, there are  discussions among industry representatives and regulators around this, such as whether when leachate generation slows down enough a natural wetland system may be feasible where plants take up some of the constituents in leachate,” says Alan Kirschner, vice president and solid waste services leader for environmental engineering firm Brown and Caldwell. 

From the very start, gas collection systems should be sized to accommodate capacity increases. 

When you build the first section of landfill, size up your piping system to be able to handle the full amount of waste you will receive during the site’s active life to avoid having to rebuild piping at closure when you are at peak gas production [ultimately avoiding odor issues], advises Kirschner. 

The amount of gas generated over the long run can be determined through modeling looking at the site’s operational period and total anticipated waste volume. 

“You enter in the model how much waste goes in the landfill each year and run the data to get a curve over time. Then you can predict gas flow each year that the landfill is operating. Then you will know what pipe size and overall system size you will need when you get to capacity,” says Kirschner.

When making decisions around closure, whether a full or partial closure, it’s important to assess stormwater management systems and determine any needed action to ensure the stormwater can still be well managed in the area to be closed. 

Operators should confirm stormwater swales and ditches are operating as designed; that pipes are functioning as designed; and downstream stormwater basins are managing runoff from closed areas.  

Regulators will need financial assurance that operators can continue to do post closure maintenance for 30 years.

“You can’t even get a landfill permit until you have closure and post closure maintenance plans to present to state or local environmental agencies. And at that time, you will need a financial assurance mechanism in place such as a pledge of revenue, typically used by municipalities whereby they collect money in trash bills for closure and post closure. 

Or a private company may use a letter of credit from a bank stating the company has reserves to pay for closure and post closure maintenance,” says Joseph Miller, vice president, SCS Engineers.

Soil availability for final covers, traditionally made of soil, clay and geosynthetics, is another consideration.  

In developed regions with limited soil availability, such as the San Francisco Bay area where Miller works, operators must think ahead about how they will get this material. It could for instance come from construction projects or they may use alternate materials such as geosynthetics. 

Planning for soil is especially important considering that once operators get closer to closure, they may need to prepare the site for uses that weren’t considered when they got permitted.  

“You may need more soil in your cap for a park or soccer field. Or if you’ll build a transfer station or materials recovery facility you will need a thicker soil cap to put asphalt on top of to build a road or parking lot,” says Miller. 

Major reuse projects such as golf courses or office complexes require thought well ahead because the grade must be contoured with this use in mind.  And plans must be in place to ensure gas and leachate systems don’t interfere with the post closure uses. 

Many closure plans are preliminary at the time a site is forecast to remain active for decades, but within two to five years prior to the last waste delivery, operators need more detailed engineering plans and more detailed cost estimates.  

“That’s when you need more rigorous details on stormwater management systems, landfill gas capture systems and final grades, says Miller. 

SWANApalooza Panelists Look at How to Achieve Zero Waste to Landfill by 2040


At this week’s Virtual SWANApalooza 2020, hosted by the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), one of the keynote sessions addressed “Legislation and Policies Needed to Reach Zero Waste to Landfill.”

The panelists that took part in the discussion were: Thierry Boveri, Senior Manager, Raftelis; Bridgett Luther, Sustainability Director, Continuus Materials; Ted Michaels, President, Energy Recovery Council; and Pamela Peck, Policy & Compliance Program Director, Metro. Steve Simmons, President, Gershman, Bricker & Bratton, Inc. moderated.

During a prerecorded portion of the session, Simmons asked the panelists how they or their organization define “zero waste.” Michaels commented that, “I think you have to define ‘zero’ as zero. Which is why I think ‘zero waste to landfill’ is a better marker for companies and municipalities to achieve in terms of the possibility of success.” Luther emphasized the importance of circularity and cradle-to-cradle thinking as companies and others look to innovate toward reduced waste. 

Weighing in on what type of policies could help increase demand for waste feedstock, Peck talked about her work to help modernize Oregon’s recycling system—and the myriad challenges of contamination. “Producers have a lot of goals right now. They want to get recycled materials into their products, but we need to help them get clean materials. I think that’s going to mean standards for generators, and we also need to look at what’s coming out of our material recovery facilities. A key piece of really making our materials much more marketable to more markets is cleaning up the stuff that those end markets don’t want to see in there.” 

During a live Q&A after the recording, Simmons posed the question of whether energy recovery should be included in the definition of zero waste. Luther noted that she liked the idea of adding this piece into the definition particularly because so much energy can be recovered from discarded food. “I think when we talk about zero waste, we need to talk about everything that ends up in your trash bin that ends up going somewhere and who’s going to deal with it.” Michaels agreed that energy recovery deserves a place in the system: “There is so much material being landfilled with energy value that it would be a same to continue to bury material that could be recovered. On the theme of our session, ‘Achieving zero waste to landfill by 2040,’ energy recovery plays a very important role in getting to that goal.” 

As to whether there will always be a need for landfills, Boveri noted that, “Until we get to a point where we have the technology that ensures we have something we can’t deal with, or that can’t be turned into a resource for another process, we will continue to have the need for landfills and still have to manage and deal with our active landfills. Some folks are already mining those too.” 

Another question asked whether it is time for a North American landfill directive. Peck weighed in that, “I don’t think we should be sending food to landfills. So yes, a landfall disposal ban for food is a good policy, but it needs to be preceded by a lot of programs that help the generators set up and separate that stream. And we also need to focus on food-waste prevention. The biggest impacts are from production, not disposal.” She also noted such policies need to be coupled with some that push prevention and reuse. Luther further pointed out that policy like this needs to be accompanied by resources. 

The session wrapped up with a discussion on “zero waste at what price.” 

Need to Know

Virginia Brothers Launch Glass Collection Service to Fill Void


The city of Arlington, Va., recently discontinued its curbside collection of glass for recycling, so two brothers have leapt in to help fill that void.

College students Joe Core and his brother (who is unnamed in the accompanying article) have begun picking up glass from residents’ homes and transporting it to one of the city’s drop-off glass recycling bins. They charge $7 for the service.

Core says the idea, hatched out of boredom during the recent quarantine, occurred to him and his brother after they began recycling their family’s glass and realized how easy it was to drive down the street and drop it off at a city recycling bin.

The brothers typically do two to three pickups per day, and they collect a plastic storage bin full of glass on an average day, but there are some days when they collect triple that amount.

Read the original article here.

Need to Know

Dole to Eliminate Food Waste by 2025


Dole grows all type of fruit including bananas, but not all of them end up as food. The company announced that over the next five years it plans to eliminate the waste.

To reach its goal, Dole plans to eliminate fossil-based plastic packaging by 2025, reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and move to zero fruit loss by 2025.

In addition, Dole is looking for additional innovative ways to end waste such as turning pineapple skins and banana leaves into packaging, changing the perception of “ugly fruit” with consumers and “upcycle” fruit that can’t be sold whole into snacks and other products like cosmetics.

Dole president Pier Luigi Sigismondi said, “The ultimate goal is to see these changes becoming an industry standard.”

Read the original story here.

Need to Know

Rubicon Provides Essential Personal Protective Equipment for Frontline Workers


Atlanta, Georgia, July 01, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Rubicon, a software company that provides smart waste and recycling solutions to businesses and governments worldwide, today announced that they will be providing protective masks to their network of independent waste and recycling haulers.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to increase and new spikes are happening across the country, effective personal protective equipment is more important than ever for essential frontline workers, including our waste and recycling haulers,” said Rubicon Founder and CEO Nate Morris, “We are proud to be able to offer union made in the USA protective masks to our partners to help ensure their safety while they continue to work on the frontlines.”

Rubicon’s network of more than 7,000 hauler partners provide waste and recycling services for businesses across the country. Protective masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential for waste and recycling workers to do their jobs safely and effectively. COVID-19 has magnified this importance as these workers continue to operate as essential services, while PPE supply shortages have made it difficult for many individuals and small businesses to acquire what is necessary to operate safely.

“This is another key step that needs to be taken to support the men and women on the frontlines who are too often overlooked, but remain essential for our communities,” continued Morris, who on March 20, 2020 wrote to President Trump and key members of Congress regarding the need for COVID-19-related economic relief for independent waste and recycling haulers.

Partner haulers and sanitation workers can request the masks by emailing their Rubicon point of contact.

About Rubicon
Rubicon is a software company that provides a suite of technology products for waste, recycling, and smart city solutions, and collects and analyzes data for businesses and governments worldwide. Using technology to drive environmental innovation, the company helps turn businesses into more sustainable enterprises, and neighborhoods into greener and smarter places to live and work. Rubicon’s mission is to end waste, in all of its forms, by helping its partners find economic value in their waste streams and confidently execute on their sustainability goals. Learn more at www.rubicon.com.

Rubicon’s inaugural Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report, Toward a Future Without Waste, can be found at www.rubicon.com/esg-report/

Michael Allegretti
Chief Strategy Officer, Rubicon

[email protected]

Need to Know

In Connecticut, Small Steps Toward Fixing Unjust Patterns of Burning Trash in Communities of Color

The CT Mirror MIRA.png

In a recent opinion piece for The Connecticut Mirror, Kevin Budris, Staff Attorney for the Zero Waste Project Conservation Law Foundation, points out that, “Hartford is among the Connecticut communities hardest hit by COVID-19.” And he places the blame on “structural and institutional racism, particularly with respect to the location of polluting facilities.”

Budris expresses his hope that the long-polluting Hartford incinerator will close and applauds Connecticut’s Materials Innovation & Recycling Authority for voting to scrap plans for a $333 million upgrade. Unless the state steps in to bail out the incinerator, it will be shut down.

Budris asserts that, “By refusing to bail out the incinerator or replace it with another polluting facility or a massive transfer station, Connecticut can take a small but important step toward fixing its racist and unjust pattern of burning trash in communities of color.”

“Real waste reduction solutions support local jobs, cost less money than incineration, protect public health, and disrupt the injustice inherent in large polluting facilities.”

View the opinion piece here.

Aiming for Zero Waste: Beware the Intersection Between Goals and Accounting (Commentary)

montgomerycountymd.gov AimingForZeroWaste.png

Who doesn’t like the idea of zero waste? After all, waste is a cost, not an asset. Worse yet, if improperly handled, it can be an environmental burden. That makes eliminating waste an entirely reasonable idea. Yet, as my experience on a county task force showed, getting to zero waste is easier said than done.

For a good chunk of the last two years, I was a member of the Montgomery County, Md., Aiming for Zero Waste Task Force. The County Executive appointed our group of seven in 2018 to advise the Department of Environmental Protection on revisions to the solid waste plan. Montgomery County is immediately north of Washington, D.C. We are Maryland’s largest county with more than one million residents. The county manages recycling, composting, waste collection and disposal at a waste-to-energy facility for most of its residential population and businesses.

Our official name was bureaucratic and clunky. Fortunately, during one of our first meetings, we came up with “Aiming for Zero Waste” as our slogan.  It became the name of our website and our focus.

HDR Inc. was the consulting firm hired to research and draft the county plan. One of its first tasks was to benchmark our county’s recycling program against five of the best recycling programs in North America. The task force chose Austin, Texas; King County, Wash.; Minneapolis, Minnesota; San Francisco, Calif.; and Toronto, Canada’s largest city, as our benchmark cities.

In order to accurately compare these programs, the consultant used Maryland’s recycling rate methodology. This showed one of the problems of comparing recycling rates. Under certain conditions, Maryland allows a county to include ash from a waste-to-energy facility in its recycling rate. It also allows up to five percentage points for source reduction activities in calculating a county’s diversion rate. Both approaches are uncommon in other states. Creating an apples-to-apples comparison was challenging, but gave us the analysis we needed.

The results were revealing. At slightly less than 60 percent, only King County had a recycling rate higher than 50 percent. The other four programs ranged from 45 to 48 percent.  

As for Montgomery County, we have a 57-percent recycling rate and a 62-percent diversion rate using the state methodology. This includes 15 percent for ash recycling and an additional five source reduction points for our diversion rate. These are impressive numbers. But eliminate the ash and the source reduction points and our recycling and diversion rates are 42 percent. That’s still very good for a county of our size. But we can do better.

I had several takeaways from the benchmarking exercise. The first is that before any of us cite recycling rates, we need to find out how they are calculated. As a friend of mine likes to say, the only thing wrong with recycling rates is the numerator and the denominator.

Any recycling rate claimed to be above 50 percent needs to be carefully scrutinized to determine exactly how it was calculated. For instance, is the data limited to municipal solid waste or does it include other waste streams? Does it cover all residential, multifamily and commercial waste or just residential? How is recycling defined? Diversion rates are even more challenging because they often fail to show a direct connection between what is actually recycled and what goes to disposal.

The second is that getting to 50 percent is hard. Getting above it is even harder. Our five benchmark communities have well known, highly respected recycling programs. Only one got above 50 percent. 

The third problem is what I call inflation by definition. Touting numbers that may reflect state law is all fine and dandy. But if they don’t reflect the reality of what a recycling program actually does, versus what it says it does, that local government is probably sending more material to disposal than it is willing to admit. Sooner or later it will have to face the music.  

These takeaways should also be applied to recycling rates claimed in other countries and for materials or products. Trust but verify. Always look for the little man behind the curtain before you accept a claimed recycling rate. 

I am proud of the work done by the task force. We came up with a solid set of recommendations (https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/SWS/Resources/Files/master-plan/task-force-recommendations.pdf) that could put us on par with King County. Even with the impact of the pandemic on the county budget, our immediate budgetary requests were approved by the county council for the fiscal year that begins July 1. We have outstanding staff in our solid waste and recycling department. With an expansion into countywide food waste recovery, improved education and, I hope, a new, world class material recovery facility (MRF), we will continue to be one of America’s outstanding recycling programs.