Waste Diversion

Why is SCS Engineers dumpster diving in Wisconsin?

October 22, 2020

SCS Engineers, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – WDNR, is performing a waste sort to determine what’s in the trash going into Wisconsin’s landfills. During the waste audit, SCS will collect at least 200 samples of waste from 12 waste disposal sites across the state for eight weeks.

It’s a dirty job but yields information for economic analysis.

Solid waste, recycling, and diversion planners need to differentiate between the composition and sources of waste to appropriately manage recycling and diversion programs. These programs help citizens and businesses make the most out of their waste material and help control the cost of waste management.

Why not just landfill it?

Waste diversion can positively impact communities’ environmental health, reduce the potential for soil and water contamination, and conserve resources while reducing landfill operation costs. Municipal solid waste, called MSW, typically contains valuable materials. The cost of manufacturing using virgin materials increases, but technology creates new avenues for reusing materials formerly thrown away. The pandemic has influenced what we are consuming and where we dispose of wastes, from home or the office, influencing materials markets.

How is the data used?

WDNR uses the waste audit data to evaluate current waste diversion programs’ effectiveness to identify and quantify additional materials that Wisconsin could divert from its landfills and serve as a baseline to measure future efforts. By comparing the new data to a previous waste composition study, WDNR can measure the impact of existing recycling and hazardous waste management programs. The comparison further helps identify waste generation trends and how the waste stream is changing.

The waste characterization study separately analyzes the waste stream generated from various sources, including residential, industrial/commercial/institutional, construction & demolition. For solid waste, recycling and diversion planners, it is vital to differentiate waste sources to target programs properly.

All of this helps make recycling more effective and identifies ways to reduce and reuse a large percentage of what is landfilled.

There’s gold in them thar landfill hills.

Many items we throw away have continued value. Cell phones and electronics contain valuable materials, like gold, for example. Cardboard is exceptionally valuable now, as citizens and businesses are taking more deliveries at home. Organics such as food and yard waste can turn into compost. Aluminum and steel cans can be recycled over and over again to make new cans. According to the Aluminum Association’s Can Committee, making a new can from recycled aluminum takes 95% less energy and releases 95% fewer greenhouse gases than creating the same can without recycled material.

It all starts with the waste sort, waste characterization, and audit – which means dumpster diving!

 

We start with a pile of waste heading for the landfill, sort it, and take inventory. We don’t know yet if women are throwing out bras in response to working from home during the pandemic, but we’ll find it in the data if the correlation is there.

 

Betsy Powers is a Senior Project Manager and Civil Engineer in the SCS Madison, Wisconsin office. She has more than 22 years of civil and environmental consulting experience, including landfill design, permitting and construction, C&D and yard waste management, material recovery facility design and erosion control, and stormwater management. She serves on the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin Board of Directors. Betsy is a registered professional engineer in Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

What’s In Your Waste? Waste Characterization Study Reveals…

May 8, 2018

In 2017, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) funded its latest statewide waste characterization study, building on three previous waste sorts performed in 1998, 2005, and 2011. This meaningful data helps IDNR and local governments make informed program and policy decisions, evaluate expanding waste diversion initiatives, and improve existing program efficiencies.

Study Highlights: Provided waste composition data for the following waste generating sectors:

  • Residential
  • Institutional/Commercial/Industrial (ICI)
  • Overall
  • Participation from 13 landfills and transfer stations
  • 524 waste samples collected
  • Sorted into nine major material categories and 61 subcategories

Results Show: These three materials account for approximately for residential, ICI, and overall sector waste:

  • Organics
  • Paper
  • Plastic
Results of the IOWA Waste Study Show 71% of Waste Could Be Diverted From Landfills
 

 

Review the comparison of the Wisconsin and Iowa waste sorts SCS Engineers presented at the Wisconsin Integrated Resource Management Conference (WIRMC) to learn more about how the Iowa study and previous Wisconsin waste sorts compare.

Ready for a deeper dumpster dive? Download the full 2017 Iowa waste characterization study (go to “Studies & Reports” in the middle of the page) or the most recent Wisconsin study, or view the Best Practices for Waste Characterization webinar.

Want your state’s perspective?  Give us a call for more details or to talk about your waste sort needs. or visit our website to find the office nearest you. For information and nationwide case studies visit the solid waste planning page.

 

 

 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:03 am

EREF Awards Twelve Master’s and Doctoral Scholarships, Including the Robert P. Stearns – SCS Engineers Master’s Scholar 2016

October 26, 2016

Last week the Board of Directors of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) awarded the most scholarships in its history to Masters and Doctoral students across the United States and Canada.

Congratulations to each of the twelve recipients including Caroline Larose at the University of Michigan.

 

Caroline Larose, recipient of the 2016 Robert P. Stearns/SCS Engineers Scholarship from EREF for her analysis of urban waste programs to promote and practice sustainability.
Caroline Larose, recipient of the 2016 Robert P. Stearns/SCS Engineers Scholarship from EREF for her analysis of urban waste programs to promote and practice sustainability.

Caroline Larose was awarded the Robert P. Stearns – SCS Engineers Master’s Scholar this year. Her project, “Material Flows: Strategies to Reduce Ann Arbor’s Municipal Solid Waste and Improve Diversion,” consists of a comprehensive benchmarking analysis of urban waste programs and a review of city stakeholders to distill a set of MSW management, education, and awareness best practices. Following her research, Caroline plans to draft recommendations for the City, which will include updated MSW goals and an action plan to improve diversion and reduce waste creation.

About Caroline Larose

Caroline chose to go back to school to further her pursuit of making cities more sustainable. She identified solid waste as her primary research focus and has worked towards her idea of eliminating waste as a concept. Caroline is now in her third year as a dual MBA/MS student at the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan.

Caroline works to promote waste reduction and diversion on campus and throughout the Ann Arbor community by advising the implementation of campus-wide composting and uniform bin signage, as well as by organizing events such as the first Ross School of Business Waste Audit & Education Day and annual clothing swaps. Caroline, a member of the University-wide Student Sustainability Initiative board, has served as the VP of Sustainability for the Ross Net Impact chapter for 2-years. As a result of her leadership on campus, Caroline was selected to join the Ann Arbor Resource Management Team, advising the City of Ann Arbor on how to reduce its solid waste and improve diversion.

Posted by Diane Samuels at 3:00 am

SCS Advice from the Field: How can recycling collectors ensure clean material when serving the commercial space?

July 13, 2016

By following the simple procedures governing selective routing in the commercial space, it is possible to turn a high disposal garbage collection system into a high diversion recycling system, without incurring additional costs or losing collection revenue. Read more…

Tracie Onstad Bills of SCS Engineers and Richard Gertman of For Sustainability Too explain the steps for commercial-stream routing and management of commercial recyclables with remarkable results in their Resource Recycling article published in June 2016.

Questions? Ask Tracie, she writes a blog series about recycling.

Contact Tracie directly. 

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

Success in Selective Routing Can Help Ensure Clean Recycling Materials in the Commercial Space

June 6, 2016

This innovative sustainable materials management approach involves strategically picking up loads from businesses that generate similar types of discards. The linked article discusses the approach of following simple procedures governing selective routing in the commercial space.

Using a phased methodology, it is possible to turn a high-disposal garbage collection system into a high-diversion recycling system, without incurring additional costs or losing collection revenue. Dumpsters behind shopping plazas and other sites can become opportunities at the center of a thriving materials recovery program.

Take me to the full article.

About the Authors:

Richard Gertman is the owner of For Sustainability Too in San Jose, CA.

Tracie Onstad Bills has been in the Environmental and Resource Material Management Field for over 20 years. Her expertise revolves around commercial recycling technical assistance, environmental purchasing, large venue and event zero waste programs, research and sustainability planning, garbage hauler franchise compliance and review, construction and demolition program / ordinance analysis and writing, climate inventory compilation, research and feasibility studies to help clients with comprehensive waste prevention and zero waste programs. Ms. Bills has a BA in Environmental Science from San Jose State University, is a CRRA Board member and belongs to the SWANA Gold Rush Chapter, National Recycling Coalition and the Northern California Recycling Association. Contact Tracie here.

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

Minimize Contamination in Recycling

January 25, 2016

 

by Tracie Onstad Bills, Northern California Director, Sustainable Materials Management at SCS Engineers

For many years source separation was the primary method for recycling. However, technology has changed how recyclables are collected and processed. China, the largest importer of materials for recycling now strictly enforces regulations on importing contaminated materials for recycling into the country. China’s Operation Green Fence puts restrictions on what material China will accept, rejecting materials that don’t meet higher standards of cleanliness; that means rejected materials get buried in a landfill instead of being recycled.

Regardless of the type of recycling program, the biggest challenge here at home is now minimizing contaminated recycling material. Communities are struggling to meet diversion goals and provide materials to local recyclers that are free of common contaminants such as liquids left in containers or motor oil. My SCS team has assisted communities in the last few years to address contamination issues and I’d like to share what works best to kick start addressing the issue at home.

Recycling Assessments: Conduct a visual and physical characterization study to identify contamination levels using one of these two methods for the evaluation:

  • Recycling Routes: Material from front, side, and rear-load trucks are assessed to determine which routes and days of the week contain the largest volume of contamination. This information is used to target geographic areas for implementation of behavior change programs.
  • Recycling Containers: Material from compactor, roll-off, front-load containers or carts are assessed to identify which customers have severe contamination. This information is used to target customers who need additional assistance to clean up their recycling.

Recycling Technical Assistance: Meet with local businesses and perform a walk-through of their facility to collect baseline waste assessment and material collection infrastructure information. This information can then be used to provide customized recycling and composting recommendations, and implementation support such as employee training sessions, providing signage and collateral, referrals, and multi-lingual outreach services.

Review and Analysis of Community Recycling Programs: Review and analyze your recycling program. An environmental engineer can provide recommendations and assessments on how a recycling program can be enhanced to reduce the quantity of contaminated materials. Services typically include everything from examining outreach materials to the flow of the recycling from generation to transport to processing.

Planning and Implementation of Behavior Change Programs: There is value in providing comprehensive programs and explicit outreach materials for increasing the probability of cleaner recycling. Behavior change programs focus on planning and implementing programs that identify key triggers to encourage action in the community. These programs help communicate the importance and value of specific activities to the community and cross any age and cultural barriers.

Contamination is a global problem and is challenging, but there are steps to minimize the problem in your community.

Tracie Bills
Tracie Bills, SCS Engineers

About Tracie Onstad Bills
Tracie Onstad Bills has been in the Environmental and Resource Material Management Field for over 20 years. Her expertise revolves around commercial recycling technical assistance, environmental purchasing, large venue and event zero waste programs, research and sustainability planning, garbage hauler franchise compliance and review, construction and demolition program / ordinance analysis and writing, climate inventory compilation, research and feasibility studies to help clients with comprehensive waste prevention and zero waste programs. Ms. Bills has a BA in Environmental Science from San Jose State University, is a CRRA Board member and belongs to the SWANA Gold Rush Chapter, National Recycling Coalition and the Northern California Recycling Association. Contact Tracie here.

Learn more on the SCS service pages and read  SCS project case studies from across the nation to help fine tune your program:

Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am