Daily Digest: What would it take to make recycling a national issue?
In the Daily Digest, the Waste Dive team rounds up insights and moments you may have missed.
WHY CAN'T RECYCLING BE A NATIONAL ISSUE?
With state and local responses varying greatly, some have mused whether a federal approach could be required to help stabilize the domestic recycling situation. Trade associations have been urging federal agencies for more attention, and hope springs eternal that potential infrastructure investment could trickle down to the industry, but what if officials (elected or otherwise) actually took this up as a prime economic issue?
Last week, Waste Dive interviewed Chaz Miller – a 40-year industry veteran formerly with the NWRA — about this and many other topics for the Global Dialogue on Waste. The 45-minute session is available for free, along with several others, from the nonprofit be Waste Wise.
Miller said the U.S. has "terrible short-term memory loss" when it comes to this topic, recalled many of the same issues coming up during a White House recycling conference in 1998 and said that it's time to start thinking about rainy day funds to better deal with market volatility. Those could be managed by state or local governments, or possibly even companies with the right guidelines. Though aside from continuing to fund the EPA, Miller saw little role or desire for Congress to get involved.
The last time he could recall any serious push on this issue was in the early '90s, when the Multi-Option Packaging Strategy passed a House subcommittee. With the Mobro garbage barge debacle still fresh in people's minds, and fears mounting about limited landfill capacity, there were multiple recycling-related bills introduced at the time. The issue also inspired plenty of writing on the topic – such as this 1991 proposal published in Harvard Business Review about establishing a foundation to bridge the gap between government and industry on recycling work – but led to little in the way of national changes.
This current moment of disruption has inspired many an op-ed on reducing plastic waste and cleaning up the stream in the past year or so, and plenty of promising state or local initiatives, but few truly big picture ideas about how the U.S. can tackle this challenge/opportunity collectively.
As Miller notes from experience, the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act has been working as is for decades and would likely be far down the list of anyone in Congress, given everything else they're dealing with. Aside from the $100 million Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act that was re-introduced by soon-to-be-former Rep. Keith Ellison in early 2017, no one in the current Congress has come close to any bold concepts in recent years.
Though as a thought exercise, if nothing else, what if they did? What would that entail, and would it even be helpful to your business or public sector recycling efforts? We're well aware that this topic is considered unrealistic by many, but the fact that the decentralized, market-driven U.S. approach is different from many other developed countries, we can't help but ask the question.
IN OTHER NEWS
Big plastic goes to Washington — Plastics News
The Plastics Industry Association's annual D.C. lobbying day focused on trade, workforce and infrastructure this year, with a particular emphasis on recycling. While the group is still putting together detailed legislative proposals, it's calling for greater funding around MRFs, waste-to-energy and other industry facilities. The hope is to change perceptions about what constitutes normal infrastructure spending, stabilize recycling systems and, in turn, public opinion. Addressing growing concern around marine debris and plastic waste has become a key topic for the group and the American Chemistry Council, which was among four others that partnered for the event.
Philadelphia bicyclist death leads to $6M settlement — Bicycle Retailer and Industry News & CBS Philly
The family of a 24-year-old bicyclist that was struck and killed by a Gold Medal Environmental truck in Nov. 2017 has been awarded $6.1 million in compensatory damages. An additional $125,000, paid out in installments, will go toward bicycle safety work in the city. Since the crash, Gold Medal has been taken over by new ownership and management and instituted a comprehensive new safety program. This includes "intensive behind-the-wheel interactions with bicyclists." Employees are also now eligible for safe driving bonuses.
Waste Connections landfill in Louisiana to get new oversight — The Times-Picayune
The Jefferson Parish Landfill, which has been the source of ongoing odor complaints in recent months, will soon be monitored by a private company rather than a government engineer. The parish's longtime engineer, whom some believe wasn't stringent enough with Waste Connections subsidiary IESI, resigned in July. The Jefferson Parish Council will now decide between three firms that have submitted qualifications.
This week in M&A
WCA Waste's merger with Houston company Global Waste Services was the week's biggest announcement, but there are other deals to report too.
Pennsylvania company Clean Earth, in its fourth deal of the year, acquired Michigan-based Disposal and Recycling Technologies (DART) working with financial advisor Acquest International. DART comes with a transfer station in RCRA Part B-licensed transfer station in North Carolina and a non-hazardous waste facility in Michigan.
New York-based Modern Disposal Services also announced the acquisition of Ball Toilet & Septic Services, which has been serving Western New York more than 25 years.
Orlando encouraging backyard composting — ClickOrlando
The Florida city has been offering free backyard composters since 2007 and continues to sign on new residents that are happy with the results. According to the Solid Waste Department of Orlando some customers have reduced the amount of wasted food they put out at the curb by 15-20% and largely don't required yard waste collection anymore.
Plastic road debuts in the Netherlands — The Guardian
The city of Zwolle is now home to the world's first bike path made entirely out of recycled plastic. The 30-meter stretch used the equivalent of 218,000 plastic cups and is said to be three times as strong as asphalt. This project comes from engineering firm KWS, oil and gas company Total and pipe-makers Wavin. Making the path additionally unique is its prefabricated and hollow construction. The installation also includes sensors to track temperature, performance and traffic flow. A second path is already planned, with more to come.
ON THE AGENDA
- Connecticut Recyclers Coalition Annual Meeting (10 a.m. EDT. Branford, CT). Featuring EPA Region 1 Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, along with a joint presentation on the current state of recycling by Waste Dive and Waste360.
- 2018 Pollution Prevention Summit (9 a.m. PST. Berkeley, CA). Columnist Rich Thompson will be presenting at this annual event hosted by Mapistry, with the goal of bringing "regulators, thought leaders, and corporate environmental professionals together to connect and learn about the power of next-generation compliance strategies, tactics, and technologies to drive efficiency and minimize legal risk."
Do you have other events or webinars that should be on our agenda this week? Email [email protected].
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