In the Daily Digest, the Waste Dive team rounds up insights and moments you may have missed.
BEHIND THE SCENES IN HOUSTON
Houston's recycling program has been in the news a lot lately, often for contentious reasons. Last week, during the Municipal Waste Management Association's fall summit in the city, local officials offered their own take on how everything has played out and what's coming next.
In 2016, the city agreed to drop glass at the behest of Waste Management. According to Sarah Mason, division manager for recycling in Houston's Solid Waste Management Department, glass has gone from comprising about 18% of the single-stream tonnage to as low as 4% in the latest audit. This shift led to a nearly 800 ton drop in the city's average recycling tonnage per month. Mason takes this as a sign people are paying attention and using drop-off sites, though recognized some challenges with illegal dumping and contamination.
Bringing glass back was a key focus of the city's 2017 recycling RFP and that will indeed be happening in the spring of 2019 when FCC Environmental opens a new MRF in the city. The protracted process behind awarding that contract — completed in Jan. 2018 — didn't go unnoticed during the event.
Mayor Sylvester Turner, in remarks during a session on disaster planning and debris clean-up, jokingly said he'd "rather do an RFP on anything other than on this stuff." While complicated contract negotiations aren't uncommon in many cities, the subtle optics here were unique. Waste Management, which will be losing out on the contract in its headquarter city, had representatives sitting feet away as Turner outlined the perceived benefits of this move.
"...We ended up going with someone else and that state-of-the-art facility is now scheduled to open up in March of next year. Recycling will be returned along with a lot of other things," said Turner. "I think the maximum ceiling on that is $19 per ton, which is about 30% lower than others in the marketplace, and in terms of our current agreement it will be something like 67% less. So it's a big deal."
If there were any hard feelings, they didn't show. After, Turner posed for pictures with Harry Hayes (the city's COO and outgoing MWMA president) and two Waste Management executives. FCC — which is currently headquartered in a nearby suburb and moving into Houston next year — was not in attendance.
IN OTHER NEWS
One dead after Waste Management crash in Arizona — The Arizona Republic & KTAR
Early yesterday morning in Chandler, Arizona, a Waste Management collection truck and a car were involved in a mid-intersection crash. The driver of that car later died at a hospital. An investigation is ongoing and no further details are available at this time. This tragedy marks the latest in a rapid-fire series of third-party fatalities that have occurred in states across the country so far this month.
Maryland county backs wage increase for collection workers — The Washington Post
Last night, the Montgomery County Council approved legislation that will allow county officials to require labor peace agreements in future contracts and increase pay for contractors to match that of their union counterparts. The ordinance was backed by Laborers’ International Union of North America, which represents a majority of county collection workers. Labor peace agreements are intended to help resolve disputes via arbitration rather than other actions such as strikes — which Montgomery County experienced in 2013 and 2014. As employers struggle to incentivize retention amid serious labor shortages and local governments continue to see waste and recycling costs rise, this ongoing tension has been playing out in many areas.
LA City Council committee moves forward on straw ban ordinance — CBSLA
The Los Angeles City Council's Energy, Environment, and Social Justice Committee approved a motion asking the city's Bureau of Sanitation (LASAN) to report back on potentially banning plastic straws by 2021. This will include working with the city attorney's office on draft language and engaging with the city's disability department to address any related concerns. LASAN has said it supports the measure.
This motion, originally introduced in January, was inspired by a Los Angeles Times editorial that erroneously cited the popular statistic about half a billion straws being used in the U.S. every day. Multiple stories have since reported that number came from a 9-year-old boy and is not verifiable. Straw bans have become the new focus for many West Coast governments following prior action on bags and other single-use plastic items. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law requiring straws be offered on request and San Diego recently followed suit.
SEEN & HEARD
Energy Vision, a New York-based nonprofit that advocates for low-carbon transportation solutions, held its annual award reception last week. A video of the proceedings is available here. Winners included:
- The City of Toronto for its use of residential food waste to create renewable natural gas that powers collection vehicles.
- The Kroger Co. for its use of fuel derived from anaerobic digesters in California and Indiana to heat warehouses and power trucks in Oregon.
- Dr. Phillip J. Landrigan, director of the Global Public Health Program at the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society at Boston College, for his advocacy to move away from diesel trucks and buses.
- James S. Cannon, president of Energy Futures, Inc. also received Energy Vision’s Lifetime Achievement Award for "his work conducting seminal research in the fields of alternative energy and alternative transportation fuels over four decades."
- Webinar: Nurturing Entrepreneurs to Grow Compost Infrastructure (3-4:15 ET) The Composting Collaborative is hosting a webinar that will cover how the U.S. Composting Council "has worked through its Young Professionals Group to reach out to new businesses with feedback and funding, and find out what longtime compost businesses have to say about where the industry needs to go." Speakers will include representatives from the USCC, Living Earth, Common Ground Compost and the NJ Composting Committee.
Do you have events or webinars that should be on our agenda this week? Email [email protected].