Talkin' Trash: Los Angeles haulers defend themselves; Dunkin' ditches foam
This week in waste, we took two deep dives into two cities, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, to examine some of their current issues with solid waste management. Also, established recycling companies are taking bold moves into new markets and regional companies, but face significant local government pressure.
Let's get to it.
Stories that drove the week
Los Angeles and Baltimore both held hours-long public hearings this week, though with much different tones.
- People are angry in L.A., saying that the new franchise recycling system is raising prices but not working. Haulers are increasing staffing and bringing in extra trucks to get things under control.
- On opposite coast, Baltimoreans came out in droves to support a proposed ban on polystyrene foam in food service. It could move from committee to a full council vote by the end of the month.
The franchise system in Los Angeles is a big deal, as it is the largest city that has attempted organizing collections in such a way. The city's successes or failures could influence others across the country. Meanwhile, a foam ban in Baltimore wouldn't be the first in Maryland, but it could give momentum to a proposed statewide ban.
The Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis aimed for 'zero waste,' a first for the championship game.
- Organizers and sponsors aimed to divert at least 90% of all material from landfill and made composting and recycling bins larger than trash bins that would be sent to WTE.
- The Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in a close game. Fly Eagles, Fly.
The Super Bowl is the latest in a series of large events, including the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Philadelphia Marathon, to pursue diversion goals. High-profile events can help elevate public awareness of the importance of waste diversion and the efforts that go into solid waste management. Organizers said detailed stats could be coming, and we're excited to take a look.
Waste Pro was put on notice in North Carolina after a series of ongoing service issues.
- Henderson County officials told Waste Pro the company has 30 days to address the issues or risk having operating permits revoked.
- The issues came after Waste Pro acquired 8,000 accounts from Republic Services. A regional executive with Waste Pro told Waste Dive the company was working with local government to resolve the issues.
The company has also promised to credit affected customers and apply additional resources to correct the underlying issues.
Boston's favorite coffee chain Dunkin' Donuts announced it'd phase out polystyrene foam cups by the year 2020.
- Already, many of the company's international franchisees use paper cups. Dunkin' is going to start using double-walled paper cups in some U.S. markets this spring.
- The cups will not require cardboard holders to keep from burning hands, according to the company.
The move is certainly good news for activists opposed to polystyrene foam, but Dunkin' also mentioned the transition to paper cups would be driven in part by increasing domestic capability to manufacture those cups. The company's demand for paper products could be a slight boon to the domestic paper manufacturing industry and, in turn, the domestic paper recycling industry since manufacturers will need more feedstock.
The Vermont legislature is toying with the idea of rolling back or altering the state's organics diversion mandate.
- Current Vermont law would outlaw any organic material going to landfill by 2020 — although one state senator said amounts to government overreach.
- The legislator, Sen. John Rodgers, has introduced two bills which could alter Vermont's Universal Recycling Law.
The historically local control over solid waste can often come into contention with ambitious state sustainability goals. In Vermont, this is especially playing out as related to diversion requirements for residential properties. Diversion is already required for some commercial entities, but mandating diversion for rural parts of the state could be an incredibly costly move.
The Recycling Partnership and Simple Recycling both announced moves into new markets.
- TRP worked with Garland, TX to get new recycling carts to 9,900 households. It's the first city the company has partnered with in the Lone Star State.
- Simple Recycling will soon start curbside service for textile recycling in Raleigh, The state's capital is the first city Simple Recycling is servicing in the state.
The latest in M&A
Wastequip signed an agreement with H.I.G. Capital to be acquired from Centerbridge Partners. Wastequip, a manufacturer of solid waste processing equipment and parent company to Toter, has been under Centerbridge since 2012 and the transition is expected to close by the end of the first quarter.
Covanta Environmental Solutions (a subsidiary of Covanta) announced Thursday the acquisition of Quantex Environmental Inc., an Ontario-based environmental solutions company. With this acquisition, Covanta Environmental Solutions can now boast 17 material processing facilities across the U.S. and Canada.
Mountain Waste and Recycling in Colorado has acquired three other companies in the state: Timberline Disposal, Talking Trash and Rocky Mountain Cabana. The new company will be known as Timberline Disposal and Recycling, and the combined capital will put the company in a better position to compete with Waste Management in the state.
Did we miss a merger or an acquisition? Let us know by emailing [email protected]
How are Chinese import policies playing out across the U.S.?
Market news was relatively quiet this week, with scattered updates from around the country.
In Massachusetts, local service provider FW Russell & Sons Disposal threatened to suspend service or sue the town of Belmont unless it started sharing processing costs. These costs are being driven by higher operating expenses at the area MRF operated by Casella. Belmont agreed to the new arrangement for the remainder of contract which ends this summer.
In New Mexico, Friedman Recycling has shown no sign of returning to a revenue-share arrangement with the many area municipalities that utilize it. Like MRFs in other affected states, New Mexico Recycling Coalition Executive Director Sarah Pierpont said "they are bursting at the seams." While program cuts haven't been announced, cities such as Las Cruces are focusing on education and some of the more rural areas could begin baling their own source-separated material to sell to brokers.
You can follow all of this information on our 50 state tracker page. Tips and feedback are highly appreciated.
Other interesting stories from the week...
- Recycle Track Systems was profiled in Forbes.
- In a compelling op-ed, an executive from Enevo makes the case that the Chinese import ban might actually be a good thing.
- We took a look at a potential landfill in Utah that's all ready to go ... except nobody wants to send their waste there.
- Waste Pro is cooperating with the FBI in an investigation in Tallahassee, FL, though details are scarce.
- California could be making moves to regulate plastics. Watch this space.
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