Talkin' Trash: NYC's waste is decreasing, Washington sees local disposal waivers
We had a lot of news from China this week as well as insight about how the country's import policies were playing out in markets across the U.S. But there were other developments that were worth talking about, too, and if you missed them, Waste Dive is here to get you caught up.
Let's get to it.
Stories that drove the week
Summerville, a town in South Carolina, ditched Waste Pro as its hauler and put single-stream recycling on hold.
- The Town Council awarded a three-year contract to Carolina Waste & Recycling after canceling its contract with Waste Pro (which had just been inked in January).
- For now, the contract does not include single-stream recycling, only paper and cardboard. The contract can be renegotiated when a new recycling center opens up nearby, however.
Before canceling the contract, Waste Pro had reportedly been failing to pick up recycling some days and had also failed to deliver recycling carts it pledged to deliver. The new contract is set to begin Aug. 1. Waste Pro anticipates it will be able to reinstate recycling in 2018.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) said in a webinar that China could ban more material, or other countries could follow suit.
- ISRI President Robin Wiener said India could follow China's lead and implement a ban on "foreign garbage," even after showing some willingness to reduce the barrier to entry for some commodities.
- Wiener also raised the point that China has previously declared its intention to be entirely self-sufficient in terms of material for manufacturing by the year 2019, which means more commodity bans could be coming.
The situation has been in development for years, and it appears that the Chinese government will not be letting up any time soon. Waste Dive also spoke with industry leaders, including Waste Management's Brent Bell and The Recycling Partnership's Dylan de Thomas, to examine how the domestic industry is adapting to China's tough standards.
A waste characterization study showed New York City is producing less waste, but is a long way from 'zero' waste.
- The aggregate weight per household is down slightly from 2013, at 0.994 tons compared to 1 ton. Organics account for 34% of residential waste streams, according to the study.
- The study also found that contamination in the city's recycling stream increased. Curbside recyclables accounted for another 34% of the waste stream.
The numbers show the Department of Sanitation's theoretical maximum diversion rate for curbside material would be 68%. Another 9% could be diverted through drop-off or specialized program and the remaining 23% has "no or very limited options for beneficial use at this time."
Washington's recycling challenges are far from over.
- In a follow-up feature from last week's news of mixed paper disposal in the Pacific Northwest state, Waste Dive detailed the status of rate increases and temporary service changes in numerous counties. The state Utilities and Transportation Commission, which oversees rate increases for many local governments, said it expects all 53 regulated haulers to submit requests if they haven't done so already.
- Waste Dive also spoke to Seattle Public Utilities and the King County Solid Waste Division about why neither has approved a request from Republic Services for temporary disposal of mixed paper.
Washington has received comparatively less attention than Oregon in the months since China's import restrictions hit. That appears to be changing. The Department of Ecology hosted its first market stakeholder call last week, with a much higher than expected attendance, and temporary disposal waivers have been approved by multiple municipalities. This may also be complicating long-term planning processes, especially for King County.
The latest in M&A
- Waste Management of Arizona took over waste and recycling services for customers of Norton Environmental.
- Priority Waste acquired Austin Container in the Detroit region.
- Advanced Enviro Systems acquired New Jersey-based TrashPro.
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 effects from China's import policies continued this week around the country. Reports from California, Florida, Massachusetts and North Carolina indicate the usual challenges and adaptations.
Montana reported arguably the most disruption this week, with multiple companies announcing they would be closing operations. The Montana Standard reported on how the closure of AWARE Recycling could curtail curbside service for Butte and the Missoulian reported that Pacific Steel and Recycling will stop taking all plastics (after already dropping #3-7s) as of May 7.
In Oregon, a bevy of local news continues to trickle out about local program changes and rate increases. The Mail Tribune reported Rogue Disposal isn't actually recycling most of the material it collects until a period of running test loads is complete. The company recently altered its list of accepted materials, but is waiting to see if contamination rates adjust accordingly. In Portland, city officials expect to see a $3 per household monthly rate increase approved by the end of the month in an effort to maintain current service levels.
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Other stories from the week...
- The American Farm Bureau Federation launched "No Taste for Waste," a campaign to address consumer awareness of food waste.
- Many outlets examined what it means to be a sanitation worker, 50 years after a strike in Memphis, TN — an event that Martin Luther King Jr. was supporting when he was shot and killed.
- Pratt Recycling President Myles Cohen said cities should stop focusing on recycling rates and start focusing on contamination.
- A former Waste Management employee in Kansas City, KS is saying he was fired as retaliation for union activities.
- Buffalo, NY is looking to meet its 34% recycling rate in 2018, a number that it fell short of in 2017.