Daily Digest: Republic's sustainability talking points, Austin tries to salvage bag ban
In the Daily Digest, the Waste Dive team rounds up insights and moments you may have missed.
BETWEEN THE LINES OF REPUBLIC'S SUSTAINABILITY REPORT
Republic Services recently released its 2017 Sustainability Report and took a victory lap, announcing success on all three "time bound goals" set in 2014. Those included adding 150,000 tons or more of recycling capacity per year, reducing fleet emissions by 3% and developing at least two landfill gas-to-energy projects per year.
The company plans to announce new sustainability goals as part of its ongoing "Blue Planet" initiative soon. Here are some other points that didn't make the press release:
- Republic's fourth sustainability goal was to reduce OSHA recordable rates by 7% YoY. This is described as "on track," but not achieved. Though Republic does claim to have "41% better safety performance than the industry average."
- An opening note by CEO Don Slager described the current "recycling reset" as an "unprecedented opportunity to build a successful, sustainable recycling model suited for the 21st century." He goes on to outline how this will require new contracts, behavioral change and a "simplification" of the process. Slager put it in more frank terms during the latest earnings call, calling recycling a "product" certain people may pay more for to "feel good about doing something for the environment."
- Slager's note described the 2017 acquisition of ReCommunity as evidence of "our commitment to the future of recycling." Some have speculated that this deal — publicized about one month after China's initial import ban announcement — might have been less attractive if Republic knew how bad markets were about to get. In April, VP Pete Keller told Waste Dive that while the "timing is not great" there have been "more pluses than minuses."
- Republic reports that 19% of its national fleet is now powered by natural gas, though that number is 93% for California specifically. The Los Angeles franchise zone contract is one of the latest to boost that total. This is yet another sign of how adaptable the big players can be on environmental standards — when the market requires it.
- Organics don't get as much attention lately, but Republic reports collecting and diverting about 500,000 tons per year nationwide. The company says contamination remains the "biggest challenge" and indicates preference for covered aerated static pile compost systems "where possible."
- Republic invested $29 million in solar projects for landfills and other sites during 2017. This now includes nearly 237,000 panels with a combined capacity of 80 MW at 19 sites around the country. The largest is in South Brunswick, New Jersey.
- The report also doubles down on support for landfills, while hinting at some of the opposition they continue to face, reading, "People use multiple adjectives when describing a landfill, and they're usually not anything related to 'community asset.' At Republic, we’re working to change that perception."
IN OTHER NEWS
Austin City Council not giving up on bag ordinance — Austin Business Journal
The Texas Supreme Court may have preempted plastic bag ordinances in a June ruling, and Austin announced it would stop enforcing the local policy in July, but the Austin City Council isn't quite ready to admit defeat. In a newly passed resolution, the council recognizes that while the ordinance "is not enforceable at this time, we affirm it as part of the laws of the City of Austin." The council is asking the city manager to work with Austin Resource Recovery and the Zero Waste Advisory Commission to still encourage voluntary compliance.
NY DEC fines Rensselaer landfill operator $100,000 — The Record News
SA Dunn & Company, operator of a sand mine and adjacent landfill, was fined for violating the terms of its state permit. Officials say persistent dust clouds at the facility are to blame and the operator must now begin a dust control plan. If the operator complies with the DEC, a lower $50,000 suspended penalty will apply. Though the company must also complete a $225,000 environmental benefit project for the local school district and the local community.
Arkansas landfill supervisor, truck driver charged with fraud — Democrat Gazette
The supervisor for Mississippi County Landfill and a driver working for Ross Farms Trucking were arrested Thursday on federal charges of honest services fraud and conspiracy. Landfill employees noticed that a specific truck had been dumping material without first stopping on the scales or paying any fees, which led them to contact the FBI. In total, the scheme cost the county an estimated $20,000. A trial is yet to be scheduled.
Athol, Massachusetts signs contract for solar facility at landfill — Athol Daily News
The city awarded S.W.E.B Development a contract to build a solar power facility at the 10.4-acre capped landfill. This project would have a production capacity of 3.84 MW. Athol officials reviewed 10 proposals before making their decision, which is expected to net the city more than $5 million in proceeds from the 25-year lease combined with property taxes. Such projects have becoming increasingly common in Massachusetts.
Acapulco, Mexico officials declare health emergency due to loose trash — ABC News
Mounting piles of trash around the city have not been collected, causing officials to declare a state of emergency. The piles are at points where residents usually deposit waste to be picked up later, though it remains unclear why collection ended. According to ABC News, Acapulco Mayor Evodio Velázquez accused the Guerrero state government of not providing enough money to solve the problem, even though the state says it gives more than $10 million per month to the city for municipal services. Meanwhile, officials have been using pesticides and quick lime to try to mitigate the health hazard.
SEEN & HEARD
If I ever get to retire from my job in Baltimore, please move me to one of these rivers: https://t.co/VkpzMr0y9O— ProfessorTrashWheel (@ProfTrashWheel) August 30, 2018
Do you have events or webinars that should be on our agenda this week? Email [email protected]