sustainable materials management

USDA Offering $10 Mil in Grants for Composting | Food Waste Reduction

July 29, 2022

SCS Engineers Environmental Consulting and Contracting
Get assistance with USDA grant applications for composting | food waste reduction.

 

Cutting food loss and waste is widely recognized as one of the most powerful levers we have to address climate change and preserve our natural resources. In the United States alone, surplus food accounts for 4% of our greenhouse gas emissions, 14% of all freshwater use, and 18% of all cropland use. We’re wasting precious resources to produce and ship food only to have it end up in a landfill or rot in a field. [ReFED]

These are key action areas where the food system can focus its efforts over the next decade to prevent, rescue, and recycle food at risk of becoming waste. Strengthening food rescue and recycling anything remaining into compost or anaerobic digestion facilities creates beneficial by-products.

The USDA offers grants of up to $300,000 to composting and food waste reduction pilot projects benefiting community food waste and production programs.

Eligible projects can be in rural, urban, and suburban communities. The application deadline is fast approaching on September 1, 2022. USDA anticipates making selections by October 30, 2022, and executing the grant awards by February 8, 2023.

Visit SCS Engineers to learn more about this grant opportunity, check program qualifications, and sign up for free consulting supporting communities interested in this unique USDA grant program.

 

USDA GRANT for Composting | Food Waste Reduction ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA and RESOURCES

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 11:47 am

Solid Waste and Recyclable Material Convenience Center Efficiency

July 12, 2022

SCS Engineers Environmental Consulting and Contracting
Ryan Duckett at a Recycling Convenience Center is checking on the efficiency of the design and operations.

 

In this Waste Advantage article, sustainable materials management expert Ryan Duckett discusses how this critical infrastructure helps manage discarded materials properly, keeping communities cleaner and safer.

Finding staff and personnel, equipment, and materials transportation costs can strain localities’ limited budgets when designing these Convenience Centers. Duckett’s holistic planning approach can sustain a community’s infrastructure investment for decades.

Read Increasing Efficiency and Sustainability in Citizen’s Convenience Centers.

 

For comprehensive solid waste and recycling advice, visit:

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

Collaboration Is the Key to Successful Edible Food Recovery Programs

May 12, 2022

SCS Engineers Food recovery
Wasted food is not food waste! Rather it describes food that was not used for its intended purpose and is safely managed. Edible wasted food is useful as donations to feed people, and for food banks. Other wasted food can create animal feed, composting, or used in anaerobic digestion. All these organic materials are not going to landfills and greatly reduce your carbon footprint, while serving up many benefits.

 

The Food DROP and RecycleSmart case studies in this EM article illustrate the successful collaboration between local governments and stakeholders in food recovery. In both cases, local government staff invested time to understand the barriers and benefits of different aspects of recovery. The resulting recovery programs provide local benefits by supporting the community and the collective benefit of reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfills in California.

As environmental professionals, we believe that positions us as key collaborators for these recovery programs across the country, whether helping businesses overcome the barriers and participate in food donation programs or to support the capacity expansion of recovery organizations and services. We encourage you to learn more about the food recovery organizations and services in your community and start a conversation about how to best support their work.

Start by reading the article, Collaboration Is the Key to Successful Edible Food Recovery, for advice from these SCS Engineers environmental professionals.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

SWANA’s Timothy Flanagan Joins SCS Engineers

February 14, 2022

Timothy S. Flanagan, Project Director, SCS Engineers.

 

The former General Manager of the Monterey Regional Waste Management District and current Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Vice President, Tim Flanagan, is now a Project Director with SCS Engineers in Pleasanton, California. Flanagan is putting his three decades of recycling and solid waste expertise to work for the firm’s clients.

Flanagan is well known in the waste industry and continues making significant contributions in North America and globally. He’s accomplished many successful waste diversion and recycling programs and sustainable facilities. He played a key role in developing a pilot anaerobic digestion facility, which processes food waste and other organics into energy. This facility was the first in California to process organics from the municipal solid waste stream.

He is the Past Director of SWANA’s Recycling and Special Waste Technical Division and presently the Vice President of the SWANA International Board. In that capacity, he plays an integral role in developing the Association’s new strategic plan and participating in identifying, selecting, and prioritizing the plan goals and strategies. Flanagan is also a past Gold Rush Chapter president, where he spearheaded efforts to team with the California Resource Recovery Association for the very successful Zero Waste Certification training program.

Flanagan’s public sector experience started in the City of Palo Alto and with the County of Santa Clara before he moved into the private sector. He was Waste Management’s Western Region Director of Recycling overseeing a thirteen-state network of MRFs and material sales and District Manager of collection, recycling, and transfer station operations covering northern and southern California for seventeen years.

In 2015, the Monterey Regional Waste Management District (MRWMD) appointed him as General Manager following his ten years as the Assistant General Manager. During his tenure, Flanagan oversaw $50 million of facilities expansion and development in materials recovery facility recycling and composting operations, equipment maintenance, household hazardous waste, engineering, and landfill site operations. MRWMD, a leader in effective solid waste management and resource recovery, has been recognized by SWANA as one of the “Best Solid Waste Systems in North America.” In 2016, SWANA’s Sustainable Material Management division recognized Flanagan with its “Distinguished Individual Achievement” Award.

In 2021, Flanagan initiated the partnership with the Veteran’s Transition Center of Monterey County with The Last Chance Mercantile. This public/non-profit partnership that Flanagan helped create has the benefit of providing stable jobs for veterans in transition and the reuse of recovered items instead of landfilling. The store offers an extensive inventory of unique items ranging from books to boats, scrap lumber to furniture, and clothing to household treasures. It’s been selected by the Monterey County Weekly Readers Poll as the “Best Eco-Friendly Business in Monterey County” for many years.

 

The Last Chance Mercantile

 

Michelle Leonard, SCS’s senior vice president leading its sustainable materials management practice, has this to say, “Tim is a collaborator, a mentor, a motivator. He embodies the spirit of resource recovery in all he has accomplished and his industry contributions. It is our pleasure and honor to welcome him to SCS Engineers.”

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

How to Quit Plastic

December 6, 2021

Ways to reduce plastic – change single-use disposable things to reusable.

 

As noted in Waste360, SWANA’s recent report, “Reducing Contamination in Curbside Recycling Programs,” shows stubborn resistance to recycling even after an intense education and enforcement campaign in two towns. A bit more than one-quarter of the households simply didn’t seem to care. While the solid waste industry finds that hard to comprehend, we’re always looking for solutions, and we don’t give up.

Here’s a simple set of recommendations from Consumer Reports published in September for using less plastic. After all, if you don’t recycle, at least try to use less plastic! Most of the recommendations will save you a lot of money and are easy to do, some of which you’re probably already doing.

Thanks to Consumer Reports for its outstanding article that we share with you here.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

California’s first fully solar-powered compost facility shines brightly

November 9, 2021

California’s first 100% solar-powered composting facility is located on the Otay Landfill serving San Diego County.

 

In October, Republic Services’ Otay Compost Facility at the Chula Vista, California, Otay Landfill opened for business. The compost facility helps communities in San Diego County meet the requirements of California’s SB1383 law mandating the diversion of organic waste from landfills.

The composting facility designed by SCS Engineers in collaboration with Sustainable Generation operates completely off the grid using solar energy. It is the first fully solar-powered compost facility in the state and can process 100 tons of organics per day, with plans to double capacity by year-end.

Both organics recycling and reuse leaders, Republic Services hired SCS Engineers to design the Otay Compost Facility. The design uses renewable energy to run 100 percent of the composting operations at the site. The facility design includes using technologies to speed the maturation rates and reduce excessive odors. Blowers to aerate the organic material, oxygen and temperature sensors, and advanced compost cover technology produce a high-quality product.

L to R: The Republic Services Team at the Otay Landfill includes Gabe Gonzales – Operations Manager, Vidhya Viswanathan – SCS Engineers Project Director, Neil Mohr – General Manager, Marco Cervantes – Environmental Manager, Chris Seney – Organics Operations Director.

“Republic’s taken the goals of SB 1383, to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants further. They’re running a sustainable facility that enables residents, businesses, and government to easily reuse and recycle more within a smaller carbon footprint than ever expected,” says Vidhya Viswanathan, engineer and project director.

As California collects and recycles organic materials from homes and businesses, local governments will use the products made from recycled organic material for compost and mulch. Recycling organic waste into compost creates a nutrient-rich soil amendment, preserving natural resources and reducing water consumption working within a circular economy. This California jurisdiction is ready for the SB1383 deadline on January 1, 2022.

“Republic Services supports California’s effort to divert food and yard waste from landfills to facilities such as this one,” said Chris Seney, Republic’s director of organics operations. “We’re grateful to SCS for their partnership in helping us bring this facility, co-located at an active landfill, to reality.”

Please watch the YouTube video to see the facility and learn more about its environmental value.

SCS Engineers is proud of helping our municipal and private clients bring the most value to their environmental solutions and communities. To learn more about SCS Engineers, view our 50th-anniversary video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 9:19 am

Get back into the “swing” of things at the EREF Fall Classic

October 15, 2021

We’re excited to help sponsor the EREF Fall Classic & Networking Event.

 

Revenue from the Fall Classic goes to their mission, funding scholarships for students and solid waste research to advance sustainable waste management.

Please join us in sponsoring or attending this fantastic networking event for a good cause.

Visit the EREF event page to learn more about the event and safety measures in place!

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 2:46 pm

Route Optimization for Waste Collection Finds Surprising Benefits for Even Small Municipalities | SCS Engineers

August 25, 2021

route optimization - scs engineers

 

Route Optimization for Waste Collection Finds Surprising Benefits for Even Small Municipalities

Running optimized collection routes is critical for a waste company’s or municipality’s bottom line; it’s also a dauntingly complex job. This is where experts skilled in waste collections route optimization come in. There could be thousands or more ways to get from one service point to the next along a single route; now think about an intricate web of routes traversed by a whole fleet.  Then throw in other possible variables, like different route densities, overlapping vs. non-overlapping routes, and holiday and inclement weather schedules. And if you are like one fast-growing Midwestern city, you have plenty more to take on as you work to stay on top of that growth and changes that come with it.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) help achieve collection route optimization.

One way this Midwest municipality stood up to the challenges is with GIS, which stores, processes, analyzes, and maps spatial data. SCS Engineers’ Emily Smith helped the city leverage the technology to identify and make needed changes, better serve customers, and ultimately save money and time.

“When we came in to help, they had multiple small routes scattered across their service area, which was a problem that became more difficult as the city was growing. Haulers were putting in a lot of overtime to meet deliverables while complying with regulations restricting driving hours. They needed to take more breaks between driving time to stay within those limits, which stretched out their days further,” Smith says.

“Then there’s the wear and tear on tires and the trucks themselves and fuel cost, among issues.”

Working with route optimization consultant Kevin Callen, she used GIS to help restructure and better balance routes.

An ecologist, Smith started using the technology years ago to map out wetlands and for groundwater monitoring. That gave her the knowledge base to figure out how to develop maps to optimize collection routes; these powerful systems are flexible, with broad capabilities and applications.

“I like identifying where there is room for improvement and making visual representations of projects so clients can see the scenario as more than numbers on a page. It tells a story and makes it easier to grasp when they have a visual, color-coded representation,” Smith says.

GIS is useful to map out garbage carts and recycling carts down to an individual customer or street and the number of houses in a neighborhood. It can identify one-way streets or low bridges that larger trucks may need to bypass, among relevant information to plan the most efficient paths. We layer these details and other customizable data to get a comprehensive picture to help design the plan.

Smith began by teasing out information that the city already had. Using surveys created with targeted questions, she could obtain information about specific route challenges (tight alleyways, street parking, confusing setout locations, etc.). The information helped inform potential route modifications.

The outcomes for the Midwest municipality:

  • Balanced waste collection routes that are equitable and will accommodate anticipated city development/increased customer base.
  • Established a baseline of waste, recycling, and yard waste collection productivity rates for each collection route and then used it to model proposed modifications.
  • Created clear service waste collection route boundaries, allowing replacement drivers to understand and complete services easily and facilitating better communication with customers.
  • Allowed specialized collection vehicles designed for tight alleyways to focus solely on these areas and staff to be re-assigned to other tasks.
  • Increased labor availability by one full-time employee per waste collection day.

Existing waste routes can be modeled in GIS and revised that show impact before and after revisions under consideration. This capability extends beyond fine-tuning residential collection routes. For instance, GIS can do geoprocessing of data to calculate where to put a recycle drop-off center or transfer station that will service a given number of customers.

Additional supports weaved into GIS.

Besides saving labor, travel time, and fuel and vehicle maintenance expenses, routing has more qualitative aspects of gaining efficiencies.

“By talking to collectors with boots on the ground, we find ways to enhance driver safety by identifying problem areas like locations prone to flooding and those with low-hanging tree branches or power lines. Leveraging GIS can also help reduce truck impacts to roads and neighborhoods and reduce emissions. And it can help address customer service issues — for instance, by mapping and taking notes on special backdoor service customers with limited mobility, collectors know to pick up their bins closer to their homes,” says Ryan Duckett, an SCS engineer who leverages GIS to support clients on the East Coast.

For one Texas city, it was a way to systematically and quickly clean up volumes of existing data that had inaccuracies. This was key to later being able to perform an analysis providing intel for route load balancing.

“There were approximately 200 points that needed to be updated to reflect their actual locations. We provided a method to verify and change the information via an online interactive GIS mapping application. They can edit each field, inputting appropriate route information,” says SCS’s Brooke Aumann, who has 14 years working with GIS. The municipality used this same system to review the new routes and provide comments, allowing its staff to be an active collaborative partner in optimizing each route, Aumann says.

Curbside waste collection is hard work. It involves a lot of physical labor, operating heavy equipment, adhering to tight schedules, and sometimes pivoting fast.

“Having this powerful tool that enables us to streamline the process and make collections easier and more efficient is a big plus, especially as we continue to expand and improve other waste and recycling services that depend on, or impact, collections. GIS is a unique opportunity to apply computer technology to come up with practical approaches to real-life problems and realize substantial savings in time and money,” Duckett says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

SCS Engineers Founder Tom Conrad Honored by SWANA with the Robert L. Lawrence Award

August 13, 2021

Leading environmental engineers, consultants, and contracting firm in the U.S.
Tom Conrad, Bob Stearns, and Curt Schmidt were the founders of SCS Engineers in 1970.

 

The International Awards Committee and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Board of Directors unanimously voted to honor Tom Conrad, the “C” in SCS, with the Robert L. Lawrence Distinguished Service Award at WASTECON 2021 in November. The Lawrence award is the highest accolade SWANA bestows on a member of the waste management industry, reserved for those making meaningful and lasting contributions.

“I’m honored and humbled to be selected for the Robert L. Lawrence Award. I thank you and am especially thankful for what SWANA and SCS are today,” stated Tom Conrad.

SWANA recognizes Conrad for over 60 years of significant influence on the waste management and environmental services industry. Conrad, a Founder, Executive Vice President, and Director Emeritus of SCS Engineers, dedicated his career to advancing solid waste management, most notably through the founding of SCS Engineers (Stearns, Conrad, and Schmidt Consulting Engineers) more than 51 years ago.

Tom Conrad worked on a wide range of environmental engineering projects touching almost every aspect of solid waste management throughout his career.  As an environmental engineering firm and consultant to the newly created US Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the founders recognized that responsible solid waste management was increasingly important for protecting the environment and the health and safety of the general public.

Leading SCS, he helped the EPA develop the first federal regulations for sanitary landfills, managing and capturing landfill gas, waste sorting protocols, sludge management, and land remediation.

Environmental services, including wastewater management, were always a significant part of SCS services and the waste industry. When new regulatory policies began expanding in the ’80s, SCS’s techniques, technology, and expertise helped a broad range of industries comply with environmental needs and continues today with the firm’s greenhouse gas, landfill technology, renewable energy, remediation, and sustainable materials management programs.

Conrad is also known for hiring and mentoring today’s SCS leaders, many of whom are SWANA leaders, by creating and fostering SCS’s culture encouraging employee participation in industry associations, community, and SCS’s mentorship and leadership programs.

 

Leading environmental engineers, consultants, and contracting firm in the U.S.
SCS’s current executive leadership and SWANA members, Bob Gardner (Solid Waste), Jim Walsh (CEO), with Tom Conrad, and Mike McLaughlin (Environmental Services).

 

Before his retirement in 2016, Conrad held professional engineering licenses in 24 states. He was a member of SWANA, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Waste and Recycling Association, and the Society of American Military Engineers.

He maintains his “work hard – play hard” lifestyle. He is active at SCS, participating in Board of Director meetings and speaking at the Young Professionals Group events and celebrations. While no longer mountain climbing and biking cross-country, he has a vigorous walking, swimming, and biking schedule.

 

An icon at SCS Engineers and at home, Tom is not slowing down – he has more playtime now!

 

Congratulations, Tom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

How building on landfills could change the country’s future.

August 12, 2021

Adobe stock image licensed by SCS Engineers.
Hard to believe that once this was an open dump – these transformations are happening as we remediate properties located in prime locations for new uses as stadiums, mixed-use communities, parks, homes, offices, even ski slopes!

 

Popular Mechanics recently published an article entitled The Pungent History of America’s Garbage Mountains. The article starts with a little-known ferryman on Lake Michigan when a storm beached his craft on an offshore sandbar in July 1886. Thus started Chicago’s open dump on today’s Lake Shore Drive, home to landmarks such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Wrigley Building, the Chicago Tribune Tower, Northwestern University, and the Magnificent Mile – all on turn-of-the-century garbage.

Transportation centers, stadiums, and even entire neighborhoods are now built on landfills. This is a fascinating, well-written article on the history and possibilities of building on remediated properties and brownfields.

“Landfill redevelopment projects tend to be real estate projects, and you know what matters in real estate: location, location, location,” says Mike McLaughlin of SCS Engineers, who specializes in brownfields and landfill redevelopment. “A landfill in an urban area might be the only piece of open land in that area. People go to extraordinary lengths to redevelop because the property is so valuable.”

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am