The men and women of the solid waste industry have been continuing their jobs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In recognition of their hard work and sacrifice, SWANA is collaborating with Glad to support sanitation workers across the United States and Canada personally affected by COVID-19 through the Sanitation Workers Support Fund (Fund). The Fund is providing financial assistance to eligible front-line solid waste and recycling collection workers in the United States and Canada adversely impacted by COVID-19.
“The solid waste industry is considered essential, and its workers have been on the front line, without failure, making sure waste is collected and disposed of since the onset of COVID-19. This fund is an important recognition of their contribution to our communities, and is a way of providing support when they are personally impacted by the pandemic,” stated Suzanne Sturgeon, Health & Safety Program Manager for SCS Field Services and SWANA Safety Committee Chair.
Circulated with permission from EREF – Press Release
For years, the public has considered recycling to be one of the best methods of preserving the environment and preventing valuable materials from going to the landfill. Coupled with this is the misconception that landfills are actually harmful to the environment.
As a result of this misunderstanding, consumers, driven to do their sustainable part by avoiding the trash can, discard their items in the recycling bin with little regard or understanding of what does and does not belong in that bin. Thanks to this wish-cycling and confusion, consumers unknowingly create more contamination, rendering some of the material un-recyclable, as well as dangerous conditions for solid waste and scrap recycling facilities.
With these stressors already weighing on facilities, fires at material recovery facilities are on the rise, with records set in July, August, and September of 2019 for reported fires.
Despite the recent increase in MRF fires, there is little data and evidence to explain how and why these fires spark. To fill in this data gap, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF), in collaboration with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) have partnered on a study to determine the causes and frequency of MRF fires in the U.S.
The primary objective of this effort is to compile information that summarizes the following information about fires at MRFs and scrap recycling facilities and in collection vehicles:
Key industry organizations have rallied around the issue, with the project stakeholders representing a significant portion of the scrap and recycling industry. “These fires present a major risk to worker safety. For years, NWRA has fought to improve worker safety in the waste industry,” said Darrell Smith, President and CEO of NWRA. “This study will better inform our efforts.”
“The recycling industry is taking a proactive approach to addressing the growing concern of fires at scrap facilities,” said Robin Wiener, President of ISRI. “While this includes the implementation of new technologies, workforce safety initiatives, and public outreach on proper recycling, identifying the causes of fires is the first step to finding a solution to prevent them. The survey will help identify the root causes which we can then use to better direct resources to prevent future fires.”
“The information gleaned from this study has the potential to save facility owners money, reduce material loss and, more importantly, increase worker safety,” said David Biderman, Executive Director and CEO of SWANA. “We’re excited about the impact this research can have on the industry.”
A critical component of the study is a survey of recycling and scrap facilities, which recently went live. “Such information is critical and benefits the entire industry, as fires serve to further financial pressure on an already strained industry,” noted Bryan Staley, President and CEO of EREF.
To participate in the survey, please visit the project website. Survey Closes May 29, 2020
EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit erefdn.org.
Can Computer Technology Enhance Safety and Environmental Protection?
Just when you thought we had gone as far as we could, now there is remote monitoring and control technology. Did you know that you can have live access to monitor equipment and data in real time from your living room? You can see how fast pumps are running or what temperature or flow rate you have at your flare. You can access live video feeds from cameras and actually see inside your flare station or storage area. Notification of unplanned shut downs can be set up. You can be notified on your mobile device when something goes wrong. The technology exists to remotely start flares when they shut down. Imagine eliminating a three-hour drive to restart a flare. Not only do you save time and money, but you avoid a potential environmental impact or fine. This is cool stuff.
Remember, whatever technology you use or plan to use, make it user-friendly. Most people resist change, and the ability to use technology varies among employees. Generation X’s and Millennials tend to understand and use computers and mobile devices more effectively than some Baby Boomers. If you want your technology to work for everyone, take a slow and defined approach to implementing the use of technology. Provide training to explain what the benefits are, and how to do things step by step. Develop written procedures that can be accessed when people become confused or forget how to do things. These measures will help others welcome the introduction of technology in the workplace. Set employees up for success. Identify employees that are well suited to use technology, and consider empowering them to assist others. As technology use grows, develop IT positions to support your efforts.
Technology is continually improving; this is a good thing. Despite these advances, try to monitor the changes you make. Try not to fall victim to continually changing the way things are done. Allow time for people to understand and use the tools they have. Consider user abilities and develop updates that are necessary or enhance your process. Include end user employees in the technology development process. Keep in mind that technology, in most instances, solid waste industry included, should support workers and operations, and not the other way around.
About Michael Knox
For over 30 years, Mr. Knox has participated in projects ranging from clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) from military impact ranges to construction and management of waste treatment and disposal facilities. Currently, he performs compliance audits of SCS operations. His experience in environmental safety, construction, and remediation is exceptional in terms of both field and administrative application. He often serves as the primary interface between federal, state, and local regulatory agencies and SCS project teams.
In addition to his work as a compliance auditor, Mr. Knox is a Project Manager in Florida. In this role, his responsibilities include the execution of contracts, plus management oversight and coordination of all field operations; including landfill gas collection systems at numerous landfills.