EPA, The Recycling Partnership release curbside recycling report

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, have completed a study on the state of curbside recycling in the U.S. in 2016.

“The 2016 State of Curbside Report,” available at http://bit.ly/2h9suop, provides analysis of key curbside recycling attributes that influence performance, notably:

  • offering recycling wherever trash pickup is available;
  • using carts to collect recyclables; and
  • having robust engagement from municipal recycling program managers.

Characteristics of curbside recycling programs that were evaluated include container type, collection frequency, municipal solid waste (MSW) tip fee level and material mix. A number of other variables also were assessed.

Key findings from the report show that not just one characteristic supports successful programs. Instead, many attributes combine to support strong recovery of bottles, cans, containers and paper. The key metric used to measure program performance was annual pounds per household collected. Of the 465 geographically dispersed cities researched, the average was 357 pounds per household per year with an average MSW tip fee of $47 per ton.

According to the report, the cities represented in the study include at least three incorporated areas in each state, other than Alaska and Hawaii; 250 of the largest cities in the U.S. by population; and each state capital. At least 20 percent of the homes eligible for curbside service are represented in each of the 10 EPA Regions. The study represents 28 percent of U.S. homes that could potentially receive curbside recycling service and a selection of communities reflecting the diversity of curbside program attributes.

Cody Marshall, technical assistance lead for The Recycling Partnership, says, “Entering into this research, our goal was to simply evaluate common attributes of high-performing programs, but the findings go far beyond that.” He adds, “This curbside report points to strategies that lead to higher recovery and clearly more resources need to be made available to local governments to unlock their full potential.”

When evaluating programs with higher-than-average recovery (more than 400 pounds per household per year), common themes quickly took shape, The Recycling Partnership says: 100 percent of these programs had some type of public action that influenced curbside recycling; 96 percent were single-stream programs; 93 percent collected automatically, and 83 percent used carts.

“This report provides key insights about what drives successful recycling programs,” says Craig Cookson, senior director, recycling and energy recovery, Plastics Division, American Chemistry Council (ACC), Washington, and executive committee member of The Recycling Partnership. “ACC is a proud member of The Recycling Partnership because informed actions at the local, regional and national levels, amplified by strategic partnerships, are producing measurable on-the-ground results.”

FCC Environmental opens Dallas MRF

FCC Environmental Services, the U.S. subsidiary of the Madrid-based global environmental services company FCC, has announced the opening of a single-stream material recovery facility (MRF) in Dallas.

During the last two weeks of December 2016, the state-of-the-art MRF located on the McCommas Bluff Landfill site in southern Dallas processed more than 1,000 tons of single-stream materials from the city. The performance test, carried out in the presence of city representatives, met and exceeded expectations, according to the company.

FCC Environmental says it will operate the plant for 15 years, with a possible extension for a further 10 years.

The company officially commenced operations at the MRF Jan. 2, 2017, receiving single-stream material from the city of Dallas as well as from the city of University Park, Texas, which in November 2016 awarded FCC a five-year service contract for the treatment and marketing of all the city’s recyclables.

The turnover volume for the MRF will be $300 million over the course of its lifetime, the company says. It will use the latest sorting and classification techniques, including artificial vision, optical and gravimetric sorting technologies. It will recover and give thousands of tons of paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and metals produced by the citizens of Dallas back to the market, thereby following the circular economy principles, FCC says.

The contract to build and operate a plant to manage all of the recyclables in the Texas city was awarded to FCC in November 2015. Construction on the MRF began at the start of 2016. The design was based on helping the city to meet goals to increase waste diversion to 40 percent by 2020; 60 percent by 2030; and 80 percent (“zero waste”) by 2040.

FCC Group has more than 100 years of experience in environmental services. It serves more than 53 million people in 13 countries, with a network of more than 120 recycling facilities and 10 existing waste-to-energy projects.

Subaru of America and Recycle Across America make donation to national parks

Subaru of America, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Minneapolis-based Recycle Across America (RAA) have donated RAA’s standardized recycling label system to three national parks to support the automaker’s zero-landfill initiative currently being piloted at these parks. The donation aims to decrease landfill waste from the parks by revitalizing recycling participation, replacing conflicting signs and messaging with the RAA system to help visitors recycle easily and effectively, the organizations say.

During a study of the waste stream generated at the three pilot parks—Yosemite, Grand Teton and Denali—researchers learned that large volumes of paper, plastics and glass were included with the trash. Easily recycled materials were heading to the landfill instead of being recycling, contributing to inefficient use of landfill space and higher hauling fees.

After an audit of established recycling messaging and signage, the auditors discovered conflicting messaging and signage. Subaru and the National Parks Conservation Association identified RAA’s standardized labeling system for recycling bins as a solution.

To make recycling less confusing for the public, RAA says it developed its standardized labels for recycling bins in 2010. RAA labels use a consistent design that includes simple imagery, descriptions and color-coding to create an easy-to-understand recycling system, the organization says. Today, more than 1.25 million RAA labels are in use across the U.S.

The pilot program with the three national parks and their concession partners provides an opportunity to evaluate the labels and determine if they improve recycling levels and lower the trash hauling fees at each park.

Eureka Recycling receives funding from Closed Loop Fund

Eureka Recycling, a nonprofit recycling company located in Minneapolis (and profiled beginning on Page 30 of this issue), has secured a $9.9 million financial package from RSF Social Finance, which worked with participating lenders Calvert Foundation and the Closed Loop Fund, to expand its Minnesota-area operation.

Calvert Foundation is a nonprofit group that seeks to invest in organizations that develop affordable housing, create jobs, protect the environment and work toward other ways to provide social good.

The Closed Loop Fund is a social impact investment fund providing cities access to the capital required to build comprehensive recycling programs. The Closed Loop Fund aims to invest $100 million by 2020 with the goal to create economic value for cities by increasing recycling rates.

“We are so pleased to work with RSF Social Finance and Closed Loop Fund to finance the expansion of Eureka’s work and their social and environmental impact,” says Catherine Godschalk of Calvert Foundation. “The fact that three separate organizations see the value that Eureka creates—not just for the organization but all stakeholders—is a testament to the strength of their approach,” she adds.

“In the last 18 months, we’ve reviewed upwards of 150 proposals asking for over $350 million for recycling infrastructure,” says Rob Kaplan, managing director of Closed Loop Fund. “Eureka is the model we compare these applicants to because it demonstrates the heights recycling can reach with the right operations and business model.”

The funds will be applied toward purchasing additional equipment for Eureka Recycling’s single-stream material recovery facility (MRF) and a new transport collection fleet.

“Recycling can do so much more than just reduce how much trash is going into landfills,” says Kate Davenport, co-president of Eureka. “It can be an effective strategy for addressing issues of climate change and environmental justice.”

Los Angeles approves Zero Waste LA waste management franchise system

Following a vote by the Los Angeles City Council, multiple council members held a press conference alongside 200 members of the Don’t Waste LA Coalition celebrating final approval of the Zero Waste LA exclusive franchise system.

Zero Waste LA is a public-private partnership designed to address the 3 million tons of waste discarded annually by businesses, consumers and residents, according to the city of Los Angeles website. This system establishes a waste and recycling collection program for all commercial, industrial and large multifamily customers in the city of Los Angeles.

On Sept. 26, 2016, LA Sanitation reported to the Board of Public Works the recommendations for the award of the Zero Waste LA franchise system contracts. Upon deliberation and review of the staff report by LA Sanitation, the Board of Public Works unanimously approved the recommendations and forwarded the report to the Mayor’s Office and city council for final consideration and adoption.

Zero Waste LA is designed to address the limitations of the existing hauler permit system, which includes the inability to meet city landfill reduction goals and to comply with state mandating recycling requirements, the lack of requirements for haulers to operate clean fuel vehicles, inefficient vehicle routing and insufficient material processing infrastructure.

The franchise system’s goals include improving health and safety for solid waste workers, air quality and customer service. It also seeks to create consistent, fair and equitable rates and to create a system that ensures long-term competition, according to Zero Waste LA.

The Don’t Waste LA Coalition says Zero Waste LA will make Los Angeles a national leader in modern and sustainable waste collection and will set the city on track for diverting 90 percent of its waste from landfills by 2025. With this new system, all city residents and businesses will have access to recycling and expanded compost collection.

Councilwoman Nury Martinez underscored the long process the city has undertaken with a goal of increasing recycling, reducing greenhouse gases and lifting health and safety standards in one of the most dangerous industries in the nation. Martinez said, “I championed Zero Waste LA from day one as an environmental justice advocate. Now, six years later, I’m thrilled to cast my vote for this historic legislation as the councilwoman from the San Fernando Valley. I applaud all of our city council and community advocates who have remained steadfast on this journey to ensure that LA will lead the way to modern and sustainable waste management for cities across the country. This effort will help communities that have been traditionally hurt by this industry. I’ll always be an environmental justice advocate at heart, and today’s vote makes me very proud.”

Councilmember Paul Koretz, the co-author of the motion to create Zero Waste LA, said, “I have no doubt that the businesses selected to service Angelenos in this historic new system will meet the rigorous standards we have established and provide all of our city’s residents with quality customer service and recycling. Best of all, we will dramatically reduce waste truck trips on our streets and greenhouse gas emissions. I have been a champion of this since day one, and, after six years of work, the vision that we set forth with Zero Waste LA is now a national model. New York, San Diego and other cities across the country are seeking to follow in our footsteps.”

Councilmember José Huizar, who co-wrote the original 2010 motion with Koretz, said, “Today, we act to protect our environment and ensure that everyone in Los Angeles has access to recycling that matches our single-family home curbside service, which is the best in the nation.”

The workplace standards set in Zero Waste LA are designed to protect workers in what is ranked as the fifth most dangerous job in the U.S.

Waste Connections announces acquisition of Groot Industries

Waste Connections Inc., Toronto, has announced it has acquired Groot Industries Inc. Founded more than a century ago in 1914, Groot is the largest privately owned solid waste services company in Illinois with total annual revenue of approximately $200 million. Groot serves approximately 300,000 customers primarily in northern Illinois from a network of six collection operations, six transfer stations and two recycling facilities.

Waste Connections provides waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling services in mostly exclusive and secondary markets in the United States and Canada.

“Groot is one of the most respected and best-in-class companies in our industry,” says Ronald J. Mittelstaedt, CEO and chairman of Waste Connections. “With a majority of its operations contiguous to the Rock River assets we acquired in November 2015, Groot solidifies our leading position in these markets, increases potential internalization benefits of their disposal volumes into our existing landfills and further expands our platform for additional growth opportunities. We are extremely pleased that Jon Groot and Ryan Brandsma will continue to lead Groot, and we expect that Groot’s support and commitments to its employees, customers and the communities it serves throughout four generations of family ownership will be further strengthened under our stewardship.”

Groot and Brandsma add, “We look forward to joining the Waste Connections family and carrying on the Groot name within our markets. We believe Waste Connections’ leadership team, culture, decentralized operating philosophy and growth focus are the best fit for Groot. We previously had looked to acquire Rock River given the obvious merits of such a combination, and are excited to be together under Waste Connections.”