Talkin' Trash: A new format for a new year
Welcome to the revamped Talkin' Trash weekly column. For years, Talkin' Trash has distilled some of the biggest stories each week to singular quotes that best summarize the content, all to give readers an opportunity to catch up on top headlines and industry trends.
But it's 2018 and it's time for a change. Instead of collecting quotes, Waste Dive will recap and analyze the biggest stories from the last seven days, while taking a second look at some smaller stories. This is a new idea and a new format — and there might be more changes to come. Do you think this would work better as a podcast? A video? Is this all just a waste of time? Let us know what you think.
Ready? Let's go.
Stories that drove the week
In Puerto Rico, The Financial Oversight and Management Board is proposing an 80 MW facility on the northern coast with a price tag of $860 million.
If it's approved, the plant would be the first newly-constructed WTE in the United States since 2015.
- Energy Answers International, Inc., the company that'd be building the Puerto Rico facility, had to scrap its last U.S.-based project in Baltimore.
- But Puerto Rico has limited space for its already-problematic landfills and needs new grid infrastructure. Waste-to-energy could help the island manage its solid waste and bolster its electric grid.
Either way, it'll be a few weeks before we know anything about the status of this project and local environmental advocates have opposed the project for years. Authorities are taking public comment until Feb. 6.
Rubicon, in shiny technology news, has earned a patent for a system that not only includes a self-driving truck, but for trash bins and other containers that automatically move themselves to be emptied.
- In the patent filing, Rubicon called household collections "inefficient," in part because people forget to put their trash out.
- Rubicon has already been moving into the residential game, with pilots from Santa Fe to Atlanta. But how likely is it that local governments would want to front the costs of a fully-autonomous system? Especially if automation could mean fewer jobs this concept might not see very wide adoption.
- Though to be fair, an automated collection service could help companies and municipalities cope with driver shortages.
SWANA pointed out this week that, as of Jan. 10, there had already been seven fatal incidents connected to the solid waste industry, involving employees and others.
- It's early in the year, and not entirely likely that this rate will continue month after month. However, seven incidents in 10 days is an alarming trend to start the year with.
- Yes, public awareness is important. But so is remembering how inherently dangerous waste collection is (giant machines, compactors, lots of time on the road...) and approaching the jobs each day with that kind of deference.
Canadian provider GFL Environmental is likely going to go public this year and reportedly wants to raise more than $800 million USD.
- It would not only be the largest Canadian IPO since Kinder Morgan Canada raised $1.4 billion last May, but it would be the largest waste-sector IPO since Advanced Disposal raised around $350 million in Oct. 2016.
- While mainly focused in Canada, GFL has been expanding into Michigan and has further U.S. plans. A strong IPO could boost GFL's standing, making it a real regional powerhouse.
Oh and, China made it official Thursday: The 0.5% contamination standards proposed in November are the new contamination standards. Trade groups, including ISRI, SWANA and NWRA, have said they're disappointed.
- We all know how disruptive China's announcement was over the summer. Now enforcement has begun and permits aren't flowing like they used to. Maybe we're just at the beginning of this ride.
Some other interesting things from this week...
- Waste Management is giving a $2,000 bonus to thousands of its employees, citing the tax reform in what has become a recent corporate trend. We haven't seen any of the other companies make similar announcements. Will Republic Services, Waste Connections or any others follow suit? (Is your company giving bonuses or hiring more? Let us know.)
- Angelenos filed an estimated 28,500 complaints about the recycLA franchise program in 2017 and strife continues. Waste Management has had to bring in drivers from around the country to catch up and others are experiencing similar troubles as the clock counts down to financial penalties or contract terminations.
- Folks in Europe are looking to make a fortune from landfill mining (and not just from methane).
- The Government Accountability Office is going to investigate how well-prepared Superfund sites are for storms. EPA's Scott Pruitt was supposed to tell Congress how he chose the list of 21 sites of "immediate" action, but seems to have blown by the Jan. 8 deadline given to him.
- The infamous Chuck Rizzo has gotten himself into some hot water with the feds, reportedly for speaking with a "key witness" while in a casino.
- FCC Environmental secured Houston's recycling contract and will move its U.S. headquarters to the city. It was a long, protracted debate that we were starting to think may never get settled.
- Also on our radar: Ctrl-X: A Topography of E-Waste, a photo book coming out in late March. You can check out a preview of the photos here. Some may not be pretty, but the book looks fascinating.
That's a wrap on this week. Waste Dive won't publish on Monday due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Have a good weekend, and we'll hit the ground running Tuesday.
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