Daily Digest: Northeast recycling reality check; Minnesota WTE in jeopardy
In the Daily Digest, the Waste Dive team rounds up insights and moments you may have missed.
POLICY MEETS PRACTICALITY AT SPC ADVANCE
Last week, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition held its annual conference in Boston and assembled one of the most robust panels on Northeast recycling in recent memory. In addition to The Recycling Partnership and Northeast Recycling Council, the event included state and local agency representatives from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island and New York.
While this was somewhat glossed over during the session, aside from general talk of market challenges, Northeast recycling programs have seen widespread effects over the past year. Regardless of whether the average citizen is actually dialed into the market specifics, these policymakers feel that people want to see recycling programs stay as expansive as possible.
“We hate taking something out of a program. It makes our jobs a nightmare. People are furious," said Krystal Noiseux, education and outreach manager for the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.
Aside from removing shredded paper last year, Rhode Island hasn't made any significant changes. Neither has Massachusetts, despite near unanimous consensus from MRF operators around dropping glass this year.
“Glass is sort of the ultimate, it’s what they think of when they think of recycling," said Brooke Nash, MassDEP's branch chief for municipal waste reduction. “Can MRF tech evolve? I sure hope so. Because we’re not going to stop collecting glass."
The logic gap here is these expectations come at a price — especially in states that ban the disposal or require the collection of certain materials. While panelists recognized this reality, they also agreed it won't be an easy conversation. The key question is how to help municipalities afford maintaining the level of service that their residents are said to desire, while also making sure the private sector doesn't get overzealous with rate increases.
If Northeast states truly don't want to back down on their goals and expectations, the first step may be finding new ways to frame the conversation.
“Just because something costs money doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. I think that recycling for a long time was unfortunately perceived of as having to pay for itself," said Dylan de Thomas, vice president of industry collaboration for The Recycling Partnership. "It’s something that’s a service. It’s something that costs."
IN OTHER NEWS
Minnesota WTE plant could be on its way out - Star Tribune
Great River Energy is having a hard time finding potential buyers for its Elk River WTE facility and anticipates closing soon. Neither Anoka or Hennepin counties are interested. If this does happen, an estimated 250,000 tons of material per year will now need to find a home in four area landfills. State officials are already projecting that could reduce the average regional landfill lifespan to six years. The facility has a long history, starting as a coal power plant in 1950 before conversion into the current RDF system in 1989, but has struggled to earn adequate revenue from energy in recent years.
Republic's newest board member - Press Release
Katharine Weymouth, currently CEO of dineXpert, has joined the Republic Services board of directors. She was previously publisher and CEO of The Washington Post from 2008 to 2014. In a statement, CEO Don Slager said that Weymouth's "deep understanding of how customers access and consume information, as well as her current role as CEO, will serve us well as we continue to develop our digital platform and enhance the Republic Services customer experience." Weymouth is now the fourth woman on Republic's 12-person board, the most out of any publicly-traded industry company. This is something which the company has been touting as a priority since its 2008 merger with Allied Waste resulted in an all-male board.
Teamsters ratify new contract with WM in California - Press Release
More than 200 members of Teamsters Local 683, based in El Cajon, have ratified a new contract with Waste Management after about three months of negotiations. This is the local's second contract with the company since organizing five years ago. A union release says that "in addition to increasing wages, it increases the company's contributions to pension and health care costs and provides for an additional layer of protection for workers during disciplinary procedures that may result in termination."
Oman getting first major glass recycling facility - Press Release
It's become a popular talking point to say glass recycling isn't economically viable — and that may be true for certain regions of the U.S. — but interest is still growing in other countries. National Glass Recycling Co. SAOC is set to open a new facility in Oman, with equipment from Glass-Scan Technologies, that will have capacity for up to 650 tons per day. This operation will be the first of its kind for the Gulf Cooperation Council, and it has already lined up long-term import and end market agreements.
SEEN & HEARD
Starting in November, we will begin offering plastic straws only upon request and begin to replace plastic straws with an eco-friendly alternative straw by the end of 2020. This commitment is expected to eliminate almost 150 million plastic straws per year from our restaurants. pic.twitter.com/L8gcagdiWI— Red Lobster (@redlobster) October 1, 2018
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