A group that has for years been working to establish and promulgate a voluntary sustainable materials management certification dubbed SWEEP, short for Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Performance Standard, has recently added new participants to its still-growing pilot program.
While COVID-19 slowed some progress for SWEEP, pilot participants will work through the certification requirements cycle and help the organization refine its criteria, certification tools and processes. Other municipal participants include Lincoln, Nebraska; Keene, New Hampshire; El Paso, Texas; and Spokane, Washington.
Two of those new pilot participants — one a city, Pittsburg, California, and the other a business partner, Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery (MDRR) — are located near the San Francisco Bay Area. SWEEP Program Associate Sam Yeoman noted the significance of the proximity of the two signups, given the reciprocity baked into the certification.
Pittsburg Environmental Affairs Manager Laura Wright likened Pittsburg and MDRR’s early uptake of SWEEP to the initial days of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification for buildings. “As LEED showed us way back when, in the beginning, when a lot of people didn’t know about it, it laid out things that you kind of didn’t think about,” Wright said.
SWEEP’s assessment areas include aspects of sustainable material management policy, waste generation and prevention, solid waste collection, and post-collection recovery and disposal. From a jurisdiction’s perspective, Wright considers the SWEEP opportunity a great way to establish a “self-check,” or baseline, of how well you’re doing with sustainable practices and diversion, and whether or not recycling and other community programs are really working.
“It’ll really truly tell me: what have we been doing in California since we passed the Recycling Act of 1989, and where we're going in [SB 1383] with organics in the future,” Wright said, adding the assessment will also help inform Pittsburg’s work with MDDR.
MDRR is only the second private-sector participant after Waste Management. “Actionable information is really what we want. We want to be able to use this as a diagnostic tool for performance, or improvement, and to learn about new ideas and best practices that we can incorporate into our organization and through our partnership with the city,” said MDRR Chief Administrative Officer Kish Rajan.
Rajan views being an early adopter of the standard, although labor-intensive, as a clear way to validate environmental goals and get return on investment: “These aren't just words that we're saying about commitment; we're backing up these commitments with real action, and real effort to maximize the performance of our organization."
More updates from around the country:
Local reports again surfaced this week of insufficient staffing availability disrupting waste and recycling collection. Augusta, Georgia; Gray, Georgia and Newport News, Virginia, are among those that have recently seen delayed pickups. In the Smyrna, Tennessee, area, Waste Management is decreasing pickup frequency to every other week in light of limited staff availability.
New York City closed its comment period this week for a proposed rule regarding the requirement of waste management plans in certain residential buildings. That rule is, in part, designed to mitigate the unsightly, obstructive, rodent-attracting piles of trash bags that pile up on curbs outside of buildings. A related hearing garnered participation from the Brooklyn and Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Boards and the Center for Zero Waste Design. Representatives were largely supportive of the rule's aims and advocated that the rule apply to a wider range of building sizes.
Cleveland opened its opt-in curbside recycling program for signups this week, with an aim of restarting recycling service by year's end. The city has been without the service since last year, and it has been evaluating recommendations for the program's future from a consultant report released earlier this year. (News 5 Cleveland)
Jacksonville, Florida, has spent nearly $45,000 on overtime pay for workers helping the city catch up on behind-schedule recycling and trash pickups. (WKOV)
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is advocating that the city's next budget allow for hiring more staff in the sanitation deparment following labor shortage-induced pickup delays. According to the Dallas newspaper, city garbage and recycling truck drivers make between $1.50 and $14.50 less than their privately employed counterparts. (The Dallas Morning News)
More than 100 Washington, D.C., firefighters on Thursday responded to a multi-alarm fire that broke out at a city trash transfer station. (WTOP)
Rochester, New York, has begun a city compost pilot program, allowing residents to receive a bucket and other items for collecting food scraps at home to then be taken to drop-off sites. (Democrat & Chronicle)
Sanitation trucks in Columbia, South Carolina, now feature design wraps with messages encouraging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19. (ABC Columbia)