The Dallas City Council recently authorized a three-year service contract, with two one-year renewal options, for environmental monitoring and engineering consulting services supporting Dallas’s Department of Sanitation Services. SCS Engineers will use its integrated specialized practices to support the City’s McCommas Bluff Sanitary Landfill, Bachman Transfer Station, Fair Oaks Transfer Station, and Southwest Transfer Station.
Vice President Ryan Kuntz, P.E., the team’s principal consulting engineer, said, “SCS is privileged that the City of Dallas entrusts us to partner with the City’s staff to maintain the landfill and the transfer stations’ safe and efficient operations. The Department of Sanitation Services support the citizens and the environment; we’re honored to be of assistance.”
Landfills are extraordinarily complex systems integrating liquids and gas management systems, and the City’s McCommas Bluff Landfill is one of the largest landfills in the State of Texas. Transfer stations also require expertise in technical and regulatory issues for successful operation.
The City finds it cost-effective to employ an engineering firm, such as SCS, that specializes in solid waste engineering. SCS enhances environmental services with its specialized in-house practices, providing comprehensive capabilities and advanced technologies that improve efficiency and help control costs.
SCS Engineers will provide monitoring and engineering support staff from the firm’s Bedford, Texas office, along with the help of our minority/women-owned business partners. The SCS Bedford team’s professionals and field technicians are experienced and knowledgeable of regional and local geology, regulatory policies, and technical challenges.
SCS Engineers’ environmental solutions and technology are a direct result of our experience and dedication to solid waste management and other industries responsible for safeguarding the environment. For more information about SCS, please watch our 50th Anniversary video.
The City of Olathe, Kansas is the fastest growing municipality in the Kansas City metro area, and the Solid Waste Division Manager recognized that increasing population; new, single and multi-family home developments; and growth in commercial establishments would require additional services, resources, and infrastructure to continue the same excellent level of service. The City determined that a long-term, solid waste management plan (Plan) was necessary to address future waste management needs of the City, as well as optimize the performance and efficiency of existing waste management services and facilities.
Olathe’s long-term solid waste plan was a first for the City and resulted in creating tangible pathways to environmental and financial sustainability for the next several decades despite the cost of recycling programs. Customers and elected officials support the City’s approach, surpassing another sometimes-prickly hurdle.
In their recent APWA Reporter article, Karen Luken and Anastasia Welch of SCS Engineers describe how the Olathe Solid Waste Division now has a strategic approach and schedule for adding collection routes, increasing recycling, purchasing equipment, and expanding facilities.
This informative article, Strategic planning for sustainable and stakeholder-supported waste systems is available online at APWA.
This article provides the SCS methodology used to make projections for the financial performance of solid waste collection and disposal during a five-year planning period for the City of Pensacola, Florida. The projections were then used to model different possible rate structures for approval by the City Council.
After discussion and two public readings of the ordinance amending the sanitation rate, the Pensacola City Council adopted a new monthly sanitation rate and established a sanitation equipment surcharge. These additional revenues enable the full funding of departmental services to continue and will provide for ongoing replacement of sanitation equipment.
Cutting Solid Waste Collection Costs
A six-month pilot program was initiated to identify possible program savings and how the program would be rolled out to its residents. An SCS Engineers rate study conducted at that time suggested possible operational savings, which could enable the City to defer a solid waste rate increase. The good results shown during the pilot program encouraged the City decision-makers to move ahead with once a week collection. The latest statistical data from the City of Clearwater, Florida shows a 21% decrease in solid waste generation and an annual savings of $107,000 in tipping fees. Operational savings for the City achieved the projected $400,000 savings as forecasted in the SCS rate study.
Assessing the Financial Performance of Operating and Proposed Solid Waste Programs
Financial analysis is an increasingly important issue in solid waste decision making. In an era where the mantra of doing more with less” is on the lips of most political decision-makers, it is critical to assess the financial performance of operating and proposed solid waste programs. The three issues discussed in this article provide some guidelines on how these kinds of assessments can be conducted.
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Financial analysis is an increasingly important issue in solid waste decision making. In an era where the mantra of “doing more with less” is on the lips of most political decision-makers, it is critical to assess the financial performance of operating and proposed solid waste programs. The three issues discussed in this article provide some guidelines on how these kinds of assessments can be conducted.
By Michelle Leonard, Solid Waste Planning and Recycling; Sustainability
The term describes the desired end-state and a call-to-action rethinking what we regard as trash as potentially valuable resources. The overall goal of zero waste planning is to establish the goal of diverting at least 90 percent of the waste generated by all sources from a landfill.
Zero Waste is to:
Communities across North America have embraced the concept of Zero Waste, some by adopting a Zero Waste goal or policy, and others by completing a Zero Waste Plan. The plan includes implementing zero waste programs and infrastructure in a manner most sustainable for the community. Many communities establish a long-term goal of Zero Waste by setting interim goals to achieve and benchmark measuring progress. Goals may be quantified over years, by percentages, or by environmental factors relevant to your community.
There are several factors critical to sustainable Zero Waste programs.
Phasing in programs encourages acceptance of new policies, programs, and facilities, and the behavior modifications that come with them. Instead of continuing to focus on results at the end of the process, we find ways to fulfill the equation “waste = resource” within our industrial and societal systems. This mindset change helps to lead us to more systems that eliminate wastes to the environment, avoiding systematic deterioration of the environment. These systems are modeled by nature as the most efficient, less costly, and most profitable ways to move toward Zero Waste.
Programs that contribute to Zero Waste include upstream policies and programs. Over 71% of the waste generated happens before products and materials enter our homes, offices, schools and institutions. Upstream policies and programs aim to reduce the volume and toxicity of discarded products and materials and promote low-impact or reduced consumption lifestyles.
Producer Responsibility is an upstream activity, including advocacy at the state level and implementation of local ordinances for hard to handle materials, such as pharmaceuticals, sharps, batteries, CFLs. Local jurisdictions can support state legislation for Extended Producer Responsibility for materials such as carpet paint, etc.
Downstream programs aim to ensure the highest and best use of products and packaging at the end of their useful lives. They establish a hierarchy of:
Managing these materials will most likely require a combination of facilities which may include:
The issue of how Waste to Energy fits into a Zero Waste system has been a hotly debated topic at many Zero Waste conferences, workshops, and planning sessions. The Zero Waste International Alliance includes in its definition “no burning or burying”. However, even the most aggressive, advanced Zero Waste system will still have some residual materials, and these materials will need to be managed. Some cities that have adopted Zero Waste plans and/or policies include waste to energy in their strategic plans. These cities recognize that Zero Waste policies and programs will achieve a high diversion rate, but they also acknowledge that a portion of the waste stream residuals will need to be disposed or processed. For these cities, waste to energy, or another alternative technology facility will fill that need, and will further reduce the use of landfill disposal.
Solid waste agencies are under more pressure these days to provide high-quality waste collection, facility enhancements, and landfill operation services. Coupled with the pressures from ratepayers and local government “lean and mean” initiatives to keep rates and expenses low, has many solid waste agencies struggling. Balancing real cost escalation factors such as rising fuel, material, and labor costs against the push for keeping static rates is challenging. Further, full cost accounting is difficult because agencies often support activities not directly related to normal operations or provide “free services” such as street sweeping or collection and disposal for community events (i.e. fairs, farmers markets, runs for charity, art shows). Allocating shared costs across agencies is complicated and at times inaccurate adding to the agency’s overhead.
The scarcity of reliable data available to benchmark solid waste management operations handicaps timely comparisons among solid waste systems. Benchmarking rates or service fees for collection and disposal is challenging, but not impossible using financial tools now considered critical to focus on an agency’s primary policy and management issues. These tools are the basis for budgeting, cost accounting, financial monitoring and evaluation aimed at recovering sufficient money to cover recurrent operational expenditures of the agency’s services as well as to stock up capital for new investments or extensive maintenance.
A Pro Forma Model is a financial tool crafted from the market dynamics influencing the life cycle of a specific project, cost center, or program. In the solid waste business, every project is unique, and the design of the pro forma financial model should reflect these differences. To accommodate the various types of business models needed to analyze the feasibility of recycling projects, we’ve developed different types of pro forma models that allow us to tailor the financial statements to the particular project. Thus, each client receives models that have the maximum flexibility to model multiple scenarios of facility size, energy production/co-generation, site locations, and changes in operations.
For example, we have had clients wanting to evaluate the feasibility of a single stream recycling program with multiple cart sizes, evaluate alternative landfill cover systems, and collection equipment and whether or not a change from manual to automated collection made long-term economic sense.
Another client, a private waste hauler, wanted to evaluate the business case for implementation of a leachate evaporator. The cost of leachate disposal was increasing, and our client needed to make a business case for the project. In each of these cases, a pro forma model was developed to help quantify the capital and operating costs of the proposed facilities or programs and then compare these long-term costs against current programs.
The use of financial tools to evaluate the agency’s cost of service is another important area where pro forma modeling is used. Such cost of service studies evaluate the financial aspects of solid waste management programs and remain critical to ensuring sustainability of the agency. In short, these studies show how an agency determines the means to fill the gap between cost and revenues, alert authorities to options of how financial sustainability can be improved, and determine if privatizing some services is a reasonable option.
The lack of specific financial monitoring and analysis of data is one of the significant barriers to being able to sustain any envisioned improvement of an agency system. This concerns budgeting, cost accounting, financial monitoring and evaluation aiming at recovering sufficient money to cover recurrent operational expenditures of the collection service as well as to stock up capital for new investments or significant maintenance. Many agencies do not know the actual cost of providing specific services. Before strategic decisions are made, an important step is to establish a full understanding of the historical or current costs for the provision of the services and the respective revenues. The studies serve to project financial sustainability in the short-term as well as in the long-term.
The growing national trend toward privatization of government-provided services demonstrates that the public sector solid waste agencies must operate efficiently and cost-effectively if they wish to continue providing these services to its citizens. Municipal governmental agencies must optimize the performance of their service utilities to ensure that costs are contained; while at the same time, service levels and customer satisfaction remain high. In fact, it is necessary for public agencies to think and act like the private sector service providers and spearhead efficiency gains and identify cost reduction measures to reduce operating costs while improving customer satisfaction.
In conclusion, the use of financial tools to evaluate current and proposed solid waste programs and facilities is an increasing trend across the nation by many solid waste agencies. These tools provide a useful vehicle for finding optimal management solutions, while at the same time, providing quick answers on their projected financial performance for political decision-makers.
Contact Marc Rogoff, the SCS National Expert on Solid Waste Rate Studies or read more about using financial tools to balance current and future rates while planning for high-quality waste collection, facility enhancements, and landfill operation services.
Solid Waste Planning, City of Killeen, Texas, in Waste Advantage