Category Archives: Waste Management

What I discovered in New York City trash

Source: Robin Nagle, Ted Talks, September 2013

New York City residents produce 11,000 tons of garbage every day. Every day! This astonishing statistic is just one of the reasons Robin Nagle started a research project with the city’s Department of Sanitation. She walked the routes, operated mechanical brooms, even drove a garbage truck herself–all so she could answer a simple-sounding but complicated question: who cleans up after us?

Training for a Safety Culture

Source: Tony Miano, MSW Management, Vol. 23 no. 4, June 2013

There has been a lengthy debate between the public and private sectors within the solid waste industry of who is having more accidents. Well, we all are….

…Safety programs come and go, but when you are diligent and draw the line in the sand, it becomes part of your organization’s culture. Doing so has allowed Phoenix the ability to manage by real, accurate measurable data and the ability to hold staff accountable for chargeable, preventable accidents. Do we still have our share of accidents? Yes, but we thoroughly review every accident as it happens and examine how we could have prevented it from occurring. Every member of the organization is trained on how rushing, fatigue, and complacency are the most common denominators in the cause of accidents. In addition, at the commencement of each year, the administration reviews the comprehensive training program to identify trends and what to prioritize for the coming year.

In 2001, the City of Phoenix Public Works Department, Solid Waste Field Services Division, started a comprehensive hiring and training process to ensure that all solid waste equipment operators (SWEO) follow the established guidelines for driving and collection of refuse/recycling in Phoenix. Management used routing techniques and standards that are in the best interest for the safety of the operator and customer.

This safety-training program gives each SWEO the knowledge to safely drive and operate solid waste equipment. This proven safety-training program has decreased accidents from 8.1 accidents per 100,000 miles driven in 2001 to .01 accidents per 100,000 miles driven in 2012. Concurrently, annual miles driven, customer base, and employees increased by 50% over this time.

As part of the Public Works Department’s safety-training program, the Solid Waste Division prides itself in obtaining high customer satisfaction ratings while driving and operating in a safe manner on city streets. This safety-training program consists of the following six elements….

Paper Chase: What will extended producer responsibility for packaging and printed paper mean for local government?

Source: Allen Lynch, MSW Management, Vol. 23 no. 3, May 2013

…I listed the benefits to our local governments of having EPR programs in place:
– Increased diversion from municipal disposal systems
– Reduced collection and disposal costs
– Removal of the most toxic products from the wastestream
– Reduced litter and illegal dumping

My point was that if EPR resulted in reduced costs to local governments and ratepayers, why would you not be in favor of it?

Since I wrote that editorial, the list of EPR programs in the province of British Columbia has expanded to where we now have 25 regulated EPR programs. In May 2011, the province amended its recycling regulation to include packaging and printed paper (PPP). The amendment shifts financial and administrative responsibility for managing these materials from municipalities to producers. Producers are required to have the program operational by May 19, 2014.

The regulation requires producers (brandowners and first sellers) to be 100% responsible for the life cycle management of their products, including collection, processing, and marketing for all PPP throughout the province. This responsibility applies to residential premises and municipal property but not industrial, commercial or institutional property. The PPP legislation is quite different from other industry stewardship programs, which have principally focused on items not already included in municipal recycling programs. Once implemented it will be the first 100% producer responsibility program for PPP in the world.

So what will this mean for local government and ratepayers in the province? Are we in favor of this new comprehensive program? How will it affect the residential recycling collection programs that have been in place for more than 20 years? Exactly what are the issues and challenges and how can we deal with them?…

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the United States: 2011 Facts and Figures

Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste, EPA530-R-13-001, May 2013

From the summary:
The MSW Characterization report provides the most recent available data on annual US waste generation, recycling, and disposal, as well as the benefits of recycling.

The full report, which is released every two years, contains data on:
– MSW generation, recovery, and disposal from 1960 to 2011;
– Per capita generation and discard rates;
– Source reduction (waste prevention);
– Materials and products that are in the waste stream;
– Aggregate data on the infrastructure for MSW management, including estimates of the number of curbside recycling programs, composting programs, and landfills in the US; and
– Trends in MSW management from 1960 to 2011, including source reduction, recycling and composting, and disposal via combustion and landfilling.

2013 Infrastructure Report Card

Source: American Society of Civil Engineers, March 2013

From the summary:
…Once every four years, America’s civil engineers provide a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s major infrastructure categories in ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure (Report Card). Using a simple A to F school report card format, the Report Card provides a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions and needs, both assigning grades and making recommendations for how to raise the grades. An Advisory Council of ASCE members assigns the grades according to the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. Since 1998, the grades have been near failing, averaging only Ds, due to delayed maintenance and underinvestment across most categories.

Now the 2013 Report Card grades are in, and America’s cumulative GPA for infrastructure rose slightly to a D+. The grades in 2013 ranged from a high of B- for solid waste to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees. Solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, and bridges all saw incremental improvements, and rail jumped from a C- to a C+. No categories saw a decline in grade this year….

Sweeping the Streets of the Neoliberal City: Racial and Class Divisions among New York City’s Sanitation Workers

Source: Natalie Benell, Journal of Workplace Rights, Volume 16, Number 3 – 4, 2011-2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Starting with the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s, cutbacks in New York City’s sanitation department have led to the shortening of routes plied by mechanical brooms, cutbacks in public waste basket collection, and the removal of manual sweeping crews. However, today the city’s streets are cleaner than ever, as business improvement districts and private work training programs for the homeless increasingly invest in street sweeping. This article explores the way in which the shift from public to private street sanitation creates racial and class divisions with respect to the working conditions of street sweepers in New York City and to public discourse on them. It shows that the partial displacement of unionized municipal sanitation workers by cheap private sector sweepers goes hand in hand with a binary discourse that constructs municipal workers as white working-class heroes while racialized sweepers in work training programs are exploited on the grounds that they are in debt to society.

The Economic Impact on Connecticut from Recycling Activity

Source: Connecticut Economic Resource Center, November 2012

From the summary:
Most of us like the idea of finding new and appropriate uses for things we thought we were done with. This is true whether we are a business or a household. Businesses that focus on profits know that finding a way to reuse materials can make them money. Households don’t often recognize the value-added they provide to the economy by choosing to recycle; however their contribution can be significant to the overall wellbeing of the economy of the region as well as improving the environment of the region.

In 2012, the impact on Connecticut’s economy, as measured in total sales due to recycling activity, is estimated to be over $746 million. Over seven years, from 2006 through 2012, this impact is estimated to be nearly $5.17 billion. Other measures of the overall economic activity associated with Connecticut’s recycling activities in 2012 are estimated to include:
• Employment over 4,800
• Total value-added of $469 million, which includes:
o Labor income more than $275 million
o Indirect business taxes of nearly $59 million
o Other profit-type income of more than $134 million

While these numbers are substantial, they are conservative estimates of the overall impact of all aspects of the recycling activities in Connecticut. This conservative nature is a result of a the complex market structure of recycling in Connecticut which results in some dimensions associated with recycling not being classified in recycling or easily associated with that activity. Among these factors include efficiencies associated with some of the aspects of recycling which are not quantifiable but reduce costs, the economies associated with various reduced and avoided waste disposal requirements, and the economic values residents attach to having less land taken up with landfills or other waste disposal facilities.

However, this analysis has been as thorough as possible in accounting appropriately for all available data. Within the structure of Connecticut’s economy this analysis was developed to provide a measure of the economic impacts associated with Connecticut’s recycling activity for each year from 2006 through 2012. In addition, the following report extends this analysis to include an examination of the contributions of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA). CRRA fills a critical role in overseeing an efficient materials recycling facility within the state and providing its knowledge to inform state policy. CRRA also provides an experiential and educational component of recycling in Connecticut through the CRRA Trash Museum.
See also:
Press release

Five Things Government Does Better Than You Do

Source: Monica Potts, American Prospect, August 21, 2012

Economics assumes people are rational actors in the market, but we know a lot less about how to manage money than we think….The conservative approach to government stems from a basic tenet of free-market economics: that people always act rationally to maximize their own benefits, and that from this rises a general state of well-being for society as a whole. But this isn’t always true. One of the hottest academic disciplines to arise in the last few decades is behavioral economics, which explores the ways in which people behave irrationally. In addition, easy-predictable problems with certain markets prevent us from achieving the best outcomes. These two facts have consequences for how we should think about government in certain instances. There are many ways in which the government can make better decisions with our money than we can, and there are many ways that the Ryan budget would make society worse off by getting rid of government programs. Here are five:

Retirement Insurance…Health Care…Addressing Poverty…Disaster Relief…
All the Little Things
While I’ve been focused so far on specific things that the federal government can do better than individuals or the private market, there are a number of tiny things that local governments do to create the world in which you live–building roads, taking out the trash, keeping traffic flowing, and turning street lights on at night. Basically, we can call this “running your community.” …

What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management

Source: Daniel Hoornweg and Perinaz Bhada-Tata, World Bank, Urban Development Series, No. 15, March 2012

From the summary:
As the world hurtles toward its urban future, the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW), one of the most important by-products of an urban lifestyle, is growing even faster than the rate of urbanization. Ten years ago there were 2.9 billion urban residents who generated about 0.64 kg of MSW per person per day (0.68 billion tonnes per year).

This report estimates that today these amounts have increased to about 3 billion residents generating 1.2 kg per person per day (1.3 billion tonnes per year). By 2025 this will likely increase to 4.3 billion urban residents generating about 1.42 kg/capita/day of municipal solid waste (2.2 billion tonnes per year).

This report provides consolidated data on MSW generation, collection, composition, and disposal by country and by region. Despite its importance, reliable global MSW information is not typically available. Data is often inconsistent, incomparable and incomplete; however as suggested in this report there is now enough MSW information to estimate global amounts and trends. The report also makes projections on MSW generation and composition for 2025 in order for decision makers to prepare plans and budgets for solid waste management in the coming years. Detailed annexes provide available MSW generation, collection, composition, and disposal data by city and by country.