MRF

Getting The Most Value From Waste Characterization Data For Program Planning And Design

October 28, 2021

FREE LIVE WEBINAR & Q/A – NOW ON-DEMAND

 

This educational, non-commercial webinar with a Q&A forum throughout is free and open to all who want to learn more about waste characterization to support waste management operations. We recommend this month’s discussion for solid waste operators and facility supervisors, landfill owners, environmental engineers, agency personnel, and those interested in reuse, recycling, and contamination challenges.

To effectively design and monitor a solid waste program, it’s necessary to assess disposal practices and understand the content of the waste stream. Waste characterization studies supply this necessary information. Data gathered during waste sampling can present a complete picture of disposal, which is useful for:

  • Analyses of the efficacy of current waste diversion programs,
  • Identifying new diversion opportunities or identifying trends from conditions such as COVID-19,
  • Determining the mix of recyclables collected in designated recycling programs and contamination rates,
  • Identifying the potential for waste–to–energy and reuse projects using selected waste streams.

Not just for landfills anymore, these studies are helping Material Recovery Facilities, collection programs for food recovery, organics management, and composting work more efficiently. Together our panel will discuss how states, municipalities, and regions are experiencing some surprising results and how they get the most out of every study.

This SCS panel includes guest speakers to provide a fuller perspective on how states and municipalities use the data to accomplish their solid waste management goals.

Tim Flanagan, General Manager of the MRWMD, manages a large team of professional, technical, and operations personnel who embody their mission of turning waste into resources joins us. He was also the Western Region Director of Recycling for Waste Management, overseeing its 13 states network of MRFs and material sales.

Casey Lamensky has been with the DNR’s waste and materials management program since 2013. As the Solid Waste Coordinator, she works with initiatives to divert waste from landfill disposal and regulations for alternative management facilities such as composting, woodburning, household recyclables processing, and demolition waste recycling operations.

Meet Stacey Demers, a LEED® Accredited Professional and SCS’s National Expert on solid waste composition studies, with Betsy Powers, PE, SCS’s Civil and Environmental Engineer, supporting the recent study published by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 2:00 pm

Duckett Couples Engineering Expertise with Financial Acumen and Creativity

July 30, 2021

production line for the processing of plastic waste in the factory

The engineer in Ryan Duckett tends to want to build the biggest, most top-of-the-line waste and recycling facilities whenever he can, but always what is practical for his clients. SCS’s mission states that employees adopt our clients’ environmental challenges as our own, and that includes their budgets and social goals as well.

“I appreciate that the waste management enterprises I work with are businesses and care about more than the engineering of a project. They care about the economics, and they look for guidance in both realms to get maximum value and efficiency,” says Duckett, who came to SCS Engineers as a new environmental engineering graduate. Then he went back to school for his MBA. He wanted to join both the technical and financial puzzle pieces.

“Everyone, especially local governments, is constrained by tight budgets. You have to think about the interplay between design and construction and financial feasibility,” he says.

That’s his job – to plan technically sound programs and facilities, whether new builds, upgrades, or changes in operations or services. Or it can be developing protocols for clients to tap into low-carbon fuel credits.

He’s learned to look through both developers’ and operators’ eyes to help clients accomplish what they want at budget levels they set while maximizing what they get from their programs, facilities, and systems.

“You need to make assessments and quantify details to answer questions like, what would an operator have to charge for a given service to break even? Is this service fee reasonable given market conditions? What are estimated operational costs and capital costs for an expansion? Financial analysts vet these questions, but very few of them are intimately involved in solid waste practices or engineering,” Duckett says.

 

A holistic approach in play

He calls the work he does integrated solid waste management, which involves understanding the entire operation and how one component affects the other, whether routing and collections, materials recovery facilities (MRFs), transfer stations, landfill gas systems, or others.

Duckett shows this holistic approach in play by explaining how grasping the way collections work helps design transfer stations. These major builds can run up to multimillions, even when project managers have the skill set and foresight to plan for efficiency and sustainability.

“You can better estimate how to design queuing space, how to design surge capacity, how to size facilities,” he explains.

“Adding, for example, an extra day’s storage capacity at a transfer station or MRF provides extra flexibility in the event of a disruption farther down the line. In an emergency, owners could potentially save significantly by having more time to identify or negotiate more economical alternatives.”

Some of the solutions he finds are simple but require thinking out of the box—literally in one situation where cardboard boxes were stockpiling at a convenience center because they didn’t fit through the slot in a single-stream receptacle. Simply creating an acceptance area only for boxes diverts multiple truckloads a week from landfills and generates thousands a year in revenue.

Then there are the major construction projects where Duckett digs deeper, such as one plan to site, design, and build a MRF. He conducted a feasibility study looking at different sites and calculated estimated operational costs and upfront capital costs for each identified site.

“We ultimately determined that by co-locating a facility at the existing landfill, the client would save over $200,000 in operating costs, with savings from scales/scale house reuse, the reduced distance of residual stream hauling, labor efficiencies, and other areas.”

In this same scenario, adding robotics for additional processing comes with anticipated savings of about $300,000 in manual sorting costs annually.

 

When do you recommend spending more upfront?

This question often comes up in Duckett’s world.

He finds that sometimes spending more upfront and on what’s built to last translates to substantial savings in the long run. He reflects on when a client had to replace a transfer station floor every couple of years.

“These floors take so much impact, so this is not an uncommon problem. But you can provide a huge ROI by reducing floor replacement frequency. They can run over half a million to replace properly, even for relatively small facilities,” Duckett says.

He ran budget numbers for different approaches and found in this scenario the higher-end approach, cement with additives such as fly ash, was the better deal.

“It might cost 50 percent more upfront, but the floor could last three times as long, breaking the cycle of frequent, costly replacement,” he says.

 

What do you recommend when budgets are so tight, there’s no cash reserve to invest?

Duckett and his team have found solutions in this scenario, too; often, the strategy is to figure out if a phased approach is possible.

“You could spend ten years waiting to generate enough funds to build infrastructure for a major project. Your citizens are missing out, so sometimes it’s best to build smaller, as soon as you need it. Then increase capacity as you can afford it.”

 

Expert advice from his colleagues

A very positive thing about his holistic approach is that Duckett can reach out to his colleagues who specialize in long-term financial management plans for utilities such as solid waste. This team, led by Vita Quinn, specializes in helping clients build sustainable financing models and plans.

The models help communities manage financial impacts such as COVID disruptions; make investments without burdening community budgets, and help take advantage of commodity market swings such as in the value of recycled paper. Models are useful to show community leaders and citizens the different options and what-if scenarios that make sense based on current and future conditions.

 

Going back to the drawing board to improve a system

Not long ago, Duckett’s team had to figure out what to do about a decal-based, pay-as-you-throw system that wasn’t working. The operator’s initial plan seemed logical and simple: residents purchase decals and place them on their bins for pick up. But some of them let their subscriptions expire. The city was losing money servicing outstanding accounts. It hired enforcement officers to check every decal for validity, which soon proved too labor-intensive.

“We found an alternative: adding fees for trash and recycling to the water and sewer bill. It’s bringing in more revenue. And the city is saving on hours spent checking thousands of decals, freeing the enforcement officers for other jobs, like bulky and yard waste enforcement,” Duckett says.

 

Duckett’s greatest lessons learned?

“In my seven years on the job, I have learned that the solid waste industry is complicated with a lot of intricate, moving parts that interconnect. Who would have thought trash was so complex?”

He’s also learned it’s critical to have comprehensive teams with diverse backgrounds to gather different perspectives.

“It goes back to the concept that you need more than engineering expertise to deliver that value add. That value add is important to our customers, so we strive to understand the business challenge along with the technical and social goals.”

Speaking as a young professional to other young professionals and students thinking about careers in waste management, he says: Check it out. Give it serious thought.

“I do not know of another industry that involves so many interesting disciplines: biology, hydrology, geology, engineering … even data and computer scientists.”

He shares this proposition for the young and ambitious:

“As technology advances and regulatory requirements heighten, our teams learn a lot on the job. But we appreciate our sharp graduates who bring the latest knowledge from academic settings. We depend on them to share new ways of thinking and help us solve challenging and intriguing problems.”

His motivation to get into environmental engineering evolved from his passion for the outdoors.

“I grew to appreciate conservation, which centers on doing more with less to preserve resources. Nothing is wasted in nature; everything is cyclical and gets used,” Duckett says.

“That’s what our waste system could emulate, and as a nation, we’re moving in that direction. It’s not just about reducing trash. It’s about reducing wasted effort and money spent beyond what’s necessary. It goes back to the idea of efficiency and getting the most out of something – instead of a using-disposing-buying new mentality.”

 

Learn more about comprehensive MRF and Transfer Station infrastructure

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

SCS Advice from the Field: Purchasing Optic and Robotic Sorters

July 2, 2018

Optical sorters and robotic sorters may work in two different areas of an MRF. For heavy volumes of a few related commodities (i.e., plastic containers) the optical sorters would be located closer to the front end of the MRF, potentially following an initial separation of light materials versus heavy materials or two-dimensional items such as fiber and paper from three-dimensional items (i.e., containers) by other equipment such as a screen or drum.

In general, a robotic sorter would likely perform better anywhere in the MRF where there is some presorting to spread material evenly across the belt and remove oversize and bulky material, or two-dimensional material like paper and foil, that can obscure the targeted materials. An MRF’s control systems are typically upgraded when optics or robotics are installed to provide the operator more local control of all sorting equipment on the line, more flexibility to address waste stream changes, and simpler control interfaces.

Practical advice when considering an investment…

  • Never rush into a purchase.
  • Clearly justify the need.
  • Kick the tires on a system that is operating.
  • Work with knowledgeable and long-standing companies that will provide training, follow-on consulting and service.
  • Get a written warranty and a commitment in plain language describing who to contact and what a company will do to respond to a claim. MRF environments are hard on equipment; however, the machinery should perform trouble-free for many years. In case it does not, a warranty—with a company that stands behind it—is relevant.
  • Get expected performance results in writing.
  • Preferably have a U.S.-based (versus an offshore) parts inventory.

Weighing the options after cost considerations…

Read up on system information via trade publications; inquire about system performance with other operators; and talk with experienced consultants and vendors. These options will help you narrow down the best option for a facility’s needs. This same information can then be used as a resource when vetting providers.

Allow companies to come into your facility and make an initial assessment, review data you may have on material volume, material changes, and percent recovery and residue. Then request a written report. That report should include: feasibility of employing the machine(s); expected tangible improvements (i.e., rate of recovery, reduction of residue, removal of additional targeted material(s), etc.; any other modifications needed to your system to allow the new equipment to perform properly, a budget cost estimate or range, and estimated operating costs.

Send a representative waste stream sample to potential vendors and have the sample run through the vendor’s test facilities to gauge the equipment’s effectiveness. Operators should visit facilities currently running the equipment under consideration for purchase to see how it operates in person. If visiting a site isn’t possible, review a site’s system layout and analyze its efficiency results.

Read Waste Today Editor Adam Redling’s article by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 9:00 am

The Challenge with Solid Waste and Recycling Firefighting Technologies – Paying for Them

June 25, 2018

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.

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

AI and Optical scanners, engineered fuel and 3D modelling are key considerations when planning for success at the MRF

November 7, 2017

Material recovery facilities (MRFs) are seeing many challenges that directly impact operations. Some of these challenges include: new recycled material quality standards from China, the ratcheting up of voluntary and mandatory local and state recycling goals, lower tolerance for worker injury, increasing volumes and a changing waste stream, disposal bans on organics in landfills, and high demand from emerging energy
markets for organics.

MRFs equipped with the latest technologies are able to meet tightening standards for traditional quality recycled materials and some are also starting to provide a separate, clean organics stream for downstream alternative energy projects. Many MRF operators are now benefitting from these new technologies, with increased throughput and quality of end product.

The article by Bruce Clark and Mike Kalish of SCS, provides an overview of the latest developments in MRF processing equipment systems that are helping owners and operators meet these challenges and at the same time helping maintain a healthy bottom line.

Take me to the article.

Related articles, case studies, and services.

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

Expert Advice – Mixed Waste Material Facilities

April 14, 2016

Despite the recent controversy associated with a few new mixed MRF facilities, the processing systems do an excellent job of what they are supposed to do: maximize the separation of like materials.

 

Taken as a whole, mixed MRFs have operated well since their reincarnation in the early 1990s and continued refinement through today. The sorting technology, which has been evolving for the last 25 years, has been proven to work and is reliable. Complete, pre-engineered integrated systems have been available now for years from a growing selection of established companies dedicated to the solid waste industry that can provide planning, engineering, manufacturing, controls, and startup, whether for new facilities, or retrofits of existing older facilities.

With that said, the following conclusions are offered for consideration:

  • MRFs have the potential to help communities significantly increase their waste diversion and recycling rates.
  • The integration of newer technologies offers a substantial increase in throughput of mixed waste-stream coupled with the ability to recover previously unrecoverable materials and/or materials previously unwanted (i.e., food scraps-organics).
  • High tech systems represent a significant investment over more manually intensive and older, less advanced facilities. This has to be balanced and their value thoroughly vetted in the planning stage with an economic proforma that is based on realistic, and in the authors opinion, conservative assumptions and estimates of the volume of recyclables that can be produced, demand for the recycled materials, changes in feedstock, the quality of recyclables that can be recognized, and the value that the market will put on those materials.
  • Operators should anticipate that plastic and fibers if commingled with dirty materials and/or mixed in with finished bales of those recycled materials may have a lower value placed on it by the end recycler than as compared to a bale of clean material. Thus, keeping different incoming waste-streams separate, at the front end of the system, if possible, is key in maximizing clean recovered materials and limiting the contamination risk posed by intermingling dirty materials.

Read the entire article

Learn about services 

Contact the authors: Bruce Clark and Marc Rogoff 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 2:31 pm