Save the Date! WasteExpo 2021 will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 26-29, 2021.
WasteExpo’s conference will provide education and training opportunities, Spotlight Sessions that explore top industry trends, Nothing Wasted! inspired talks from a wide array of thought leaders and visionaries, and four half-day workshops on: Zero Waste Certified Training, Food Waste & Organics Diversion Program Development, Safety, and Recycling.
Presentations by SCS professionals will include:
The conference is taking shape now – check back for details.
WASTE EXPO 2020 is now a digital event called WasteExpo Together Online, and will be held September 14-17.
The conference will feature a business forum and 20 virtual sessions on food recovery, composting, organics recycling, including the following presentations by SCS Professionals.
The Food Recovery Forum (FRF) will cover the progress of food waste prevention and reduction, including these presentations by SCS professionals at the Reducing Food Waste and Increasing Recovery in Municipal, Regional, and State Programs sessions on Tuesday, September 15 – 2:15 pm – 3:00 pm EST:
At WasteExpo Together Online (WTO) these two sessions will air on Wednesday, September 16:
Co-authors: Karen Luken of Economic Environmental Solutions International, an SCS consultant with Krista Long, Mike Miller, Anastasia Welch of SCS Engineers.
In 1987, the Mobro barge was carrying six million pounds of New York garbage. Its final destination was North Carolina, but the state turned it away. The Mobro barge spent the next five months adrift – rejected by six states and three foreign countries. The plight of the “Garbage Barge” was covered by the mainstream media throughout the summer. This unprecedented attention to trash generated a heated national debate about landfill capacity and recycling to reduce the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream. This dialogue swiftly and permanently transformed recycling in the U.S.
Between 1988 and 1992 alone, the number of curbside recycling programs increased from 1,050 to 4,354. Today, 49 U.S. states ban at least one product from landfill disposal, and twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have at least one mandatory recycling requirement. The U.S. recycling rate has steadily increased from the Garbage Barge era; by 2017, the U.S. recycling rate reached 35.2 percent, with more than 94 million tons diverted from landfill disposal (67 million tons recycled and 27 million tons composted).
The U.S. was becoming increasingly proficient at collecting recyclables; however, our performance in domestically remanufacturing these resources into valuable commodities was less than stellar. China was the main destination for U.S. recyclables for most of the early twenty-first century. A number of factors contributed to this, including:
By 2018, China was the top importer of U.S. fiber recyclables, buying 2.73 million tons of U.S. corrugated cardboard during the first half of 2018 and 1.4 million tons of all other U.S.-sourced recovered fiber during the same time. The U.S. became dependent on China to process fiber recyclables, which contributed to the closure of 117 American fiber mills and the elimination of 223,000 jobs since 2000.
Sending plastics to China also impeded the U.S. progression of advanced plastic-recovery technologies, such as gasification and pyrolysis. Products created by these technologies can have a market value that exceeds the cost of collection and processing. This was not always the case when selling plastics to China, as this market could be highly volatile. Even with unpredictable revenues, recycling companies perceived China as an eternal end market for their plastics. With China basically locking up the plastic supply chain, advanced plastic recovery technologies in the U.S. could not secure sufficient quantities of feedstock and, consequently, could not demonstrate financial viability for commercial-scale facilities.
Not only did China enthusiastically accept our recyclables, but they also turned a blind eye to the large quantity of trash (contamination) mixed in with the recyclables. This lenient policy validated the U.S. preoccupation with collecting as many recyclables as possible without really considering their quality, potential to become a valuable commodity or the carbon footprint created by using fossil fuels to transport them halfway around the world. Some in the environmental community began to question the net ecological impact associated with transporting recyclables to developing countries for remanufacturing, especially with the limited environmental regulations in these countries related to processing them into a new product. However, state recycling goals are typically based on the quantity of materials collected (rather than if they actually become a marketable product), and local recycling programs were only turning a small profit, or barely breaking even. Thus, no one wanted to “rock the boat.”
However, in 2018, China introduced the “National Sword” that almost sunk the U.S. recycling boat for the short term. The National Sword banned many scrap materials from entering China and required other materials to meet an extremely strict (low) contamination level of only 0.5%. To put in perspective, contamination rates of U.S. recyclables before processing (directly after they are collected) can reach 25% or higher. Processing removes some of the contaminants, but not typically down to 0.5%. After the National Sword, U.S. recycling companies started looking for new markets in other Southeast Asia countries. However, one by one, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and India also shut their doors by introducing new restrictions on waste imports. So far, there are few signs that any of these countries intend to relax their standards on contamination levels again.
In the short term, there is no question that the National Sword severely disrupted recycling in the U.S. The Chinese market for recyclable commodities was greater than the next 15 markets combined, leaving the U.S. with little in the way of backup to accept this commodity. Thousands of tons of recyclables are now in a landfill rather than becoming a new product. Some municipalities have stopped collecting recyclables (or specific items) altogether, and many more, both public and private, have been stockpiling collected materials in the hope that markets return.
In the long term, the National Sword may be the most significant catalyst to transform recycling since the Garbage Barge started its journey over 30 years ago. In 2019, seventeen North American paper mills announced an increase in their capacity to process recycled paper. Also, and somewhat ironically, Chinese paper companies have begun investing in North American mills because they could not import enough fiber feedstock. Experts anticipate the domestic market for fibers mills to improve for at least another three years.
Chemical companies have also begun investing in advanced plastic recycling technologies, improving recycling systems, and creating bio-based polymers since 2018. In April 2019, Brightmark Energy announced the closing of a $260 million financing package to construct the nation’s first commercial-scale plastics-to-fuel plant, which will be located in Ashley, Indiana. The plant is in a testing phase, and Brightmark anticipates bringing the facility to production-scale in 2021. Now, rather than using fossil fuels to ship plastics to China, more than 100,000 tons of plastics from Indiana and the surrounding region will become feedstock to produce fuel and other intermediate products.
While the U.S. recycling industry was busy making a comeback from the National Sword industry-wide disruption, in came another setback in the form of the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic. Shelter-in-place orders began in March 2020 in many states, which resulted in families spending more time in their homes than ever before. As of August 2020, many businesses, schools, and governmental entities are still allowing or requiring their stakeholders to work or learn remotely from home.
This work or learn from home phenomenon has resulted in massive increases in MSW and recyclables placed at the curb for collection. From March to April 2020 alone, U.S. cities saw a 20% average increase in MSW and recycling collection tonnage. Struggling restaurants have to offer takeout and delivery services, which is further contributing to a rise in paper and plastic packaging waste. COVID-19 restrictions such as mask mandates have resulted in higher amounts of personal protective equipment in the waste stream, and many items that previously could have been recycled are now discarded due to sanitary concerns.
The higher volumes of MSW and recyclables encountered at the curb during a pandemic present both challenges and opportunities. Challenges include budget cuts due to lower tax revenues, adequately staffing and ensuring the safety of waste-handling employees, and preventing the spread of COVID-19 through the waste stream. During this unprecedented time where municipalities face complex decisions on how to manage their MSW, the opportunity for innovation within the solid waste industry could not be greater.
Cities have begun to “right-size” their recycling systems by evaluating the usage of community recycling containers and reducing/redistributing containers to maximize the quantity of recyclables each site receives. Communities are evaluating curbside recycling programs to increase efficiency, and decreasing contamination is a priority. “When in doubt, throw it out,” has replaced campaigns such as “Recycle more, it’s simple.”
Cities are embracing the concept of public-private partnerships with their recycling processors as they recognize the vital and interrelated role of both the public and private sectors in recovering recyclables. Lastly, the U.S. is beginning to drive manufacturing and end-use markets domestically to stimulate demand for recyclable materials – materials for which we have become so effective at collecting.
There is little doubt that through leadership, innovation, and strategic planning, cities will continue to help lead the way on recycling to achieve landfill diversion and provide for a more environmentally and financially sustainable solid waste management system for the next 30 years.
SWANAPalooza has been rescheduled to the week of June 22, 2020, and will now be a Virtual Event titled “Connecting our Resources”. SWANA’s leadership anticipates that the virtual conference will allow even more of the solid waste community to participate in this important industry event.
SWANApalooza is SWANA’s leading conference for solid waste professionals to explore environmental solutions for integrated solid waste management. SWANA is working around the clock to organize this important virtual event.
Numerous SCS professionals will deliver presentations, including these and on-demand at the SCS Booth.
Recently, Waste360 published “Organics Diversion Drives Changes in Landfill Operators’ Roles,” an article examining the evolving role of landfill operators in organics waste diversion. Five industry leaders provide insight into how landfill operators and the solid waste industry are adapting to accommodate the evolution and the cost of organics management.
The article provides best practices, strategies, technology, and systems that could support or supplement landfill operators’ response plans to the changing policies and contract requirements in more economically sustainable ways. Waste360 rounds up answers to the most common challenges operators and public works departments face including how to reduce permitting time, cost, and environmental impact.
EBJ announced on January 23 that it is honoring SCS Engineers with multiple awards for environmental business achievements, advanced technology, and another for ASP composting project merit. The official awards ceremony takes place during EBJ’s Environmental Industry Summit XVIII in San Diego, California, in March.
SCS is receiving the Gold Business Achievement Award for a Large Environmental Firm, for outstanding business performance in 2019. We largely attribute our organic growth to our clients interested in Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) and renewable natural gas (RNG) services. Our SMM programs increase our clients’ solid waste management efficiencies, reduce waste, and support sustainable recycling, and our design and design/build facilities convert landfill gas, dairy digester gas, and wastewater treatment plant digester gas to RNG. In addition, SCS’s Geographic & Practice Area Expansion initiative in 2019 enables us to expand our professional engineering and consulting services for liquids management, wastewater treatment, and emerging contaminants from new offices in the South, Central, and Midwest regions of the United States.
The Information Technology Award for SCS Remote Monitoring and Control® (SCS RMC®) software is especially gratifying. SCS RMC technology helps lower landfill operating costs and maximize gas capture by integrating next-generation supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) opportunities such as 3D imaging from drones and virtual reality (VR). Beyond typical SCADA features, our system uses aerial data to compose topographic mapping, 2D images, and 3D renderings. SCS RMC can also incorporate geographic information systems (GIS), thermal, near-infrared, and methane leak detection data. The 3D model in use by San Bernardino County and other clients incorporates a Microsoft HoloLens VR headset that allows executives, facility management, and operators to “walk the site” from their offices, as well as view and control equipment remotely from almost any internet-connected mobile device. The technology integrates with our SCSeTools® platform, in use on over 600 landfills that help facilities continually gauge operational health and spot trends that help determine when and how to invest in infrastructure.
The Environmental Services Division of the city of San Diego, in collaboration with SCS Engineers, is receiving the Composting Project Merit Award in recognition for the composting operation at the Miramar Landfill in San Diego. In collaboration with the City, SCS designed an innovative covered Aerated Static Pile (ASP) composting system that will divert 100,000 tons per year of organic waste from the landfill. The ASP became operational in August 2019 and will compost 40,000 tons per year into useful by-products (and has capacity for an additional 20,000 tons). It provides an enhanced stormwater control system, and will eventually run on renewable energy generated from the landfill. According to the StopWaste.com calculator, the upgrade reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 19,015 cars from the road.
In addition, the recent announcement of SCS’s ASP Composting Pilot Program is making headlines. SCS owns a covered ASP compost system that is mobile and can be set-up on sites within an area of 50 feet by 100 feet, or less. In the covered ASP compost system, process and odor control is pro-active with a shorter composting period. Pilot tests allow waste managers to assess composting and to see if it is the right fit for their situation. The ASP system processes material batches in two months. Additional batches or “recipes” can test in 2-month intervals.
“Managing air, water, and soil pollution prevention are driving state and local regulations,” said Bob Gardner, a Senior Vice President of SCS Engineers. “Offsetting as much of the cost by improving operations, lowering energy consumption, and switching to renewable energy resources is critical to our clients.”
About SCS Engineers
SCS, an employee-owned environmental consulting and construction firm, is celebrating our 50th year in business. We are producing technologies and programs that lower industrial operating costs and reduce greenhouse gases for private and public clients who are establishing goals to reduce their environmental impact.
Our technologies and programs are finding footholds in the agricultural, industrial, and manufacturing sectors as municipalities and companies aim to reach climate change goals without passing all of the expense to consumers. SCS clients entrust us with the management of more than 35 million metric tons of anthropogenic CO2e greenhouse gases every year. We collect and beneficially use or destroy enough to offset greenhouse gas emissions from 7.4 million passenger cars annually.
The City of Raleigh retained SCS Engineers to assist with the process of capital project planning for new and/or upgraded facilities and programs managed by its Solid Waste Services (SWS) Department. Specifically, SCS conducted an operational evaluation and developed preliminary Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) documentation for potential facility improvements and expansions, including the City’s Yard Waste Center (YWC).
There is potential for reviewing and addressing similar organics management operations, specifically in regards to aged stockpiles, whether such piles consist of mixed debris or just leaves. This presentation will review the findings, outline the removal plan development findings as well as other considerations made during the overall effort.
The YWC opened in 1992 and manages the over 150,000 cubic yards (CY) of material each year collected by the City curbside collection program and received from other vegetative waste generators. Organic material, primarily vegetative yard waste, leaves, storm debris, and pallets, are shredded and/or recycled into mulch and compost, both of which are made available to the general public for purchase. Historically, the facility has exported a significantly reduced portion of the total amount of material it receives. While volume and mass losses attributed to drying, processing, and incidental material losses on-site may explain a portion of this discrepancy, it is evident that significant stockpiling of material has occurred throughout the years.
The majority of stockpiled processed material has been placed in the Northwest section of the YWC in what is referred to as the “Legacy Stockpile,” which according to a 2019 estimate, is roughly 200,000 CY in size and primarily composed of degraded shredded woody and vegetative material. In addition, a smaller stockpile of significant portions has also been built up. In addition to the processed brush, significant stockpiled volumes of leaves are located in the northeast quadrant of the YWC, estimated at about 100,000 CY. These volumes are considered to be rough estimates due to the uncertainty of the base grades of the land underlying the piles and do not include a “fluff” factor applied to account for the anticipated volume expansion when the material is excavated, handled/transported, and unloaded and spread.
SCS’s involvement with the planning consisted of an operational review report and drawings showing a phased YWC site plan for infrastructure improvements that could enable the City to improve its yard waste program to eventually develop a sustainable inflow and outflow of material. Prior to implementing such a plan, the City must increase the usable area of its facility by reducing the size of the existing piles and/or transporting them to an alternative location(s) for use or disposal. It must also eliminate the piles in time for an early-2021 deadline set by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ).
As part of the operational review and CIP phased site plan effort, SCS assisted the City by investigating various options, interviewing potential material acceptors, and reviewing the potential for using Mobile Incineration Units (MIU) to reduce the volume of material that will need to be hauled off-site. Currently, SCS is assisting the City with planning efforts to meet the NCDEQ required timeframe and is in the process of implementing a stockpile materials testing protocol.
About the Presenter:
Mr. Duckett has served as an engineering consultant for landfill, landfill gas, and sustainable materials management operations in SCS’ Richmond, Virginia’ office for five years. He is an NC State University Environmental Engineering grad and licensed Virginia PE pursuing an MBA with an eye for the intersection of engineering, business, and sustainability. His work includes project management for solid waste facilities and program planning, development, and analysis- related projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Mr. Duckett is a USCC member and serves on the board of the Virginia Composting Council. He is also active in SWANA (Old Dominion Chapter), SVSWMA, and ASCE.
These kids are among the more than 1,200 students and their families who took the pledge to recycle right at the 10th Annual Earth Day Event celebration hosted by Waste Management at Monarch Hill Renewable Energy Park. SCS Engineers professionals contributed their support and know-how to celebrate and educate at the environmental event.
For the past decade, the event has offered students hands-on recycling, renewable energy and environmental-related activities. One of the most popular activities at the anniversary celebration was a wind machine in which students hilariously tried to catch swirling “hurricane debris.” The most recent storm, Hurricane Irma, added 660,000 tons of debris into the landfill in just four months. Experts explained other inner workings of the Renewable Energy Park such as how landfill gas becomes electricity and “clean” renewable energy.
The day’s activities included stations where students target what can’t be recycled in a bow and suction cup arrow game; don WM vests and hardhats beside the CNG truck which reduces greenhouse gas emissions, make a landfill out of candy before taking a bus tour of the real landfill and use recycled materials to make art with Young at Art and musical instruments with the South Florida Junior Chamber Ensemble.
Proving that being good to the environment is a winning strategy, Miami Dolphins’ former wide receiver O.J. McDuffie and former cornerback Patrick Surtain were on hand to sign autographs and take photos, many of which were shared on social media at #greenbroward, a local initiative in Broward County by Waste Management designed to engage and educate the community on sustainability efforts.
As part of the Earth Day festivities, Waste Management also awarded funds to all participating schools. The Dumpster Art Contest featured the handiwork of 14 schools that all took home gift cards to Michaels for future art projects.
A fire at your transfer station or MRF can cause significant downtime, lost revenue, and added cost to restore the damaged equipment and building components. The fire department can tear a metal building apart just fighting the fire. Fires can also trigger negative publicity and could result in injury or even loss of life. Even with automatic sprinkler systems in place, fires can spread quickly. Traditional fire sprinklers are designed to protect the building from completely burning down. However, in most solid waste processing facilities, they are mounted relatively high in the building. Placement can result in significantly delayed response times to react to a fire which has time to grow and propagate. The delay can result in significant damage to structural elements, insulation, lighting, electrical, roof, and wall panels.
International Fire Protection recently published an article by Ryan Fogelman suggesting an investment in more effective fire technology safety systems to prevent fire incidents rather than mitigating the damage. The author’s solution is using automated detection of excessive heat using military grade thermal detection to pinpoint the exact location, with automated emergency alerts, remote human verification, and remotely controlled coolants to contain the threat of fire. These are all innovative solutions and certainly seem logical to help MRFs, transfer stations, and composting operations minimize the chance of an expensive emergency that could shut down operations.
Now we face the dilemma of how public agencies and businesses can afford the new or improved technology.
SCS Engineers believes that preventative strategies and designs are superior and in the long term are safer and less costly. For example, system costs typically include the monthly 24/7 monitoring and operation and set up for multi-year periods (e.g., ten years). At one MRF that experienced a fire, SCS Engineers estimated the cost to install, monitor, and maintain a 24/7 fire suppression system for the 10-year period was less than the cost of the single fire incident. Operators and owners are challenged with a business problem that requires integrating specialized engineering and technology expertise with financial expertise to create operational efficiencies.
When estimating the cost of new technologies to mitigate emergencies and increase safety, the financial considerations are paramount. Elected officials, public works directors, private sector waste management decision-makers and public utilities must operate efficiently while providing critical community services, and maintain existing service levels. They must do so while keeping rates, fees, taxes, and assessments as low as possible for the residents of a community.
Environmentally sustainable solutions must be economically feasible to achieve consensus by constituents and shareholders.
SCS Management Services™ supports a comprehensive approach to environmental solutions as described in International Fire Protection, by providing financial experts who work in combination with our engineering and technology consultants to design solutions that support MRFs, transfer stations, and composting operations planning for long-term economic and financial sustainability.
Pat Sullivan discusses two case studies that provide examples of two different approaches to odor management. The proactive approach resulted in a more positive outcome than the reactive approach. Although the odor issues never go away completely, the proactive facility has avoided lawsuits and regulatory enforcement and continues to have a positive working relationship with the community.
SCS Engineers freely shares our articles and white papers without imposing on your privacy.
Click to read Part I of this two part series. We’ll let you know when Part II is published soon.