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.
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.
“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.
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:
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.
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!
The Iowa Recycling and Solid Waste Management Conference will host an in-person conference October 4-6, 2021, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex. A slate of diverse speakers, a large exhibit hall, and some fun networking opportunities are on tap for this event including SCS’s own women in waste management.
SMM – Vision for Iowa Project Update
(Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 8:00 AM)
Michelle Leonard’s first presentation will provide an update on the Sustainable Materials Management Vision for the Iowa Phase II project, including work completed to date, and the plans and process for the project over the next 18 months.
Food Recycling and Rescue in LA County
(Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 9:50 AM)
Michelle Leonard’s second presentation will provide attendees with detailed information on food donation and recycling. Details include how the programs were envisioned, the planning process undertaken by the County, the program results, and the County’s next steps. She will present details on the County’s, private business, and haulers’ roles and responsibilities, and will offer suggestions for how other communities can implement a successful food donation program.
Strategically Planning an Alternative Cover
(Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 4:15 PM)
Anastasia Welch presents how alternative covers come in many varieties and may be appropriate for an individual site based on a number of design criteria, performance standards, and material availability considerations. Apart from technical engineering issues, long-term financial and maintenance requirements are also considered. And most importantly, how does termination of post-closure care work with an alternative cover?
Anastasia’s presentation will bring current a summary of evapotranspiration and synthetic turf cover systems and the main permitting and design considerations of each. The second portion of her presentation will explore how the financial assurance, post-closure care, and post-closure termination aspects of landfill management are impacted by these two alternative cover systems.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Media Borough, Pennsylvania’s Food Compost Program uses a witty video encouraging participation in its organic waste diversion and composting program. We had to share – not only is it fun – it works!
The Borough launched its pilot program to gauge the feasibility of adding food scrap collection to its current recycling efforts. This month the program is available to all residents. The food scrap collection program provides residents the opportunity to separate food from the rest of their household waste for collection and composting at a local compost farm.
Media Borough estimates it has 70% recycling participation in the community – that’s an impressive number. Its current recycling and yard waste programs divert close to 30% of residential solid waste from landfills and incinerators. Adding a food scrap collection program can reduce residential waste by another 30% and create compost.
The Borough’s Public Works website explains the reasons why organic matter, matters.
Thank you to this Pennsylvania community and its Public Works department for helping to sustain future generations with their reduce, reuse, and recycling actions. We hope by sharing their video and results, we’ll see greater participation in communities nationwide.
The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is hosting a virtual Sustainable Materials Management Summit on Tuesday, June 15.
This half-day virtual event will bring together the recycling, organics recovery, and resource management professionals. Industry leaders will discuss new US EPA recycling goals, food waste & organics recovery, pandemic responses, and lessons that can be applied as we move forward.
A bonus session at 1:30 pm ET, features case studies of successful SMM programs implemented to address: