Computers have transformed our lives at home and in our workplaces, but they've also introduced a dizzying array of difficult decisions. From the non-recycled plastic of a copier to the mercury in a battery, tradeoffs come with each electronic device. How do you make good choices? How do you reward manufacturers who support your values, and avoid those that don't?At the 6th annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference held recently in Dubuque, Iowa, Sarah O'Brien of the Green Electronics Council made a case for the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a registry and certification tool to help purchasers reduce uncertainty, compare apples to apples, and spend their money on sustainable products.
What do hair nets, stained glass and cookie dough have in common?This is not the beginning of a bad joke. They are all items that are currently listed on the Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE), an online database of free, unwanted materials placed up for grabs by businesses and individuals rather than hauled off to landfills. Since its establishment in 1990, the IWE has kept millions of pounds of waste out of Iowa landfills and saved, by its own estimate, $77 million by designating items for reuse.
As population and consumption trends continue to squeeze the nation's available landfill space, one public works professional sees a possible solution: Why not try "cap and trade" for solid waste?Jason Marcotte, director of city services for the city of Everett, Mass., researched the idea for a thesis he wrote while earning his Master of Public Administration degree at Norwich University in 2011. He presented his findings in a workshop at the American Public Works Association's Congress and Exposition held last week in Chicago. Marcotte said the objective of his paper was "to outline a workable solution toward waste reduction using a cap-and-trade-based solid waste system."
What does it take to put on a net-zero-waste event? The short answer, according to Carl Niemann, is 100 percent buy-in from all participants. In other words, it’s all about educating event staff, vendors and spectators, while providing them with the tools they need to execute a zero-waste event.
Niemann, manager of public sector solutions at Waste Management, Inc., said his company has developed a set of best practices based on projects that include the world’s most attended golf tournament. The 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open – one of the oldest and largest golf tournaments on the PGA Tour, hosted more than half a million spectators without using a single trash can.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Calif. -- As America's largest landfill prepares to shut down next year, Los Angeles County begins to write a new chapter in U.S. waste disposal history - ushering in the age of waste-to-energy conversion.
And they have lots of garbage to work with – about 8.7 million tons a year.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Civil engineers in the city of Austin’s public works department have been experimenting with viable uses for waste glass – as in the kind many assume gets recycled into new bottles.
For the most part, though, waste glass fails to meet the stringent criteria – clean and sorted by color – that manufactures require for making new bottles and jars. While some glass cullet fetches as much as $60 per ton, unsorted glass co-mingled with other waste is virtually worthless to manufacturers of new glass. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be removed from the waste stream to serve a useful purpose as an aggregate substitute in a variety of practical applications.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A California bill to ban single-use plastic bags died on the last day of legislative session (August 31) without coming to a vote. But that didn’t faze the 50 or so cities and counties in the state that had already passed local restrictions.
Santa Monica and Sunnyvale are among the latest cities to ban single-use carryout plastic bags, although their approaches are slightly different.
If there was an Oscar competition for the best landfills in America, surely the Sioux Falls Regional Sanitary Landfill (SFRSL) would be among the contenders.
A driving force behind sustainability in southeastern South Dakota, the fee-based landfill generates about $10 million in revenue annually, money not only used to operate the facility, but to fund other sustainability and recycling programs that serve some 240,000 people in the city and five surrounding counties.
DUBUQUE, Iowa - If you needed to tear down 44 vacant homes in an historic district, get the job out for bid, hire the contractors, and divert more than 80 percent of the demolition materials from your landfill - all within three month's time - how would you do it?
Chuck Goddard and Kyle Fitzgerald might answer: One board at a time.
If there are myths behind recyclable containers and the markets available for them, they were cleared up for an audience of solid waste and recycling professionals last week. Speaking at the annual Iowa Recycling & Solid Waste Management Conference in Dubuque Oct. 5 were presenters Jim Birmingham, recycling coordinator for the Carton Council based in Milwaukee, Wis., and Susan V. Collins, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute in Culver City, Calif.
Birmingham's objective was to hail a recyclable product new in the industry: cartons. These include gabled cartons like milk cartons, which must be refrigerated, and aseptic cartons like those that contain chicken broth, meant to be stacked and stored in a cabinet and refrigerated after opening. He said both types of packaging once contained wax, making them poor candidates for recycling. Today, wax has been replaced by polyethylene, which does not interfere with recycling. The aseptic carton additionally includes many layers of aluminum to block out light - the principle cause of spoilage.
How can municipal waste management leaders transition their communities away from landfills and incinerators to make way for a zero-waste society?
Eric Lombardi has a 10-year plan. But, the Boulder, Colo. recycling advocate said market forces alone won't build the green infrastructure necessary to close the loop on waste.
The same drive-thru service concept that has forever changed banking, eating and other necessities of modern life has found a new application that might just change the way people reuse and recycle unneeded materials. A Canadian municipal region has partnered with Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity to bring drive-thru service to its solid waste management plan.
The Region of York, which includes Toronto in Ontario, has built two Community Environmental Centres (CEC) with more planned. CECs are waste management facilities that provide residents with convenient locations to drop off a variety of materials. While York's CECs aren't the first of their kind, region officials say they plan to establish a network of the centers to provide better service and greater convenience for residents to dispose of unwanted, yet reusable or recyclable items that are not managed at the curb.
The path to zero waste doesn't end at a landfill. So, while many
municipalities across the country have diverted up to 70 percent of
the waste they generate, how they plan to make the other 30 percent
disappear can take them down a long and sometimes bumpy road.
"That's where conversion technologies come in," said Salud
Carbajal, First District supervisor for Santa Barbara County,
Calif., "to help you get on your path to zero waste. To do this,"
he said, "we must explore alternatives to landfilling."
With gasoline and diesel pump prices hovering around $4 a
gallon, obviously everyone is looking for cheaper alternatives.
And, like they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
A good example is Dane County, Wisconsin's latest energy project
- the BioCNG alternative vehicle fuel system. Up and running since
March, the system is successfully converting landfill gas (LFG)
from the Rodefield Landfill near Madison, Wis. to power compressed
natural gas (CNG) vehicles in the county's fleet.
Is the curb-side collection and recycling of glass bottles really cost-effective? Is it sustainable? Is it even a net benefit for the environment? A growing number of recyclers and public officials are answering those questions no, no and no.
"The bottom line is that collecting glass food and beverage containers in our local curbside recycling program is no longer a sustainable practice," said Paul Schultz, resource management coordinator for the city of Dubuque, Iowa. "In terms of Dubuque's sustainability model, it is a very poor economic investment with costs greatly exceeding benefits and offsets. It has very low net environmental benefits, if any," he said.
Since the mid-to-late 80s, governments like yours have been
partnering with their local utility companies to capitalize on the
contents of their landfills. No, they're not selling garbage. They
are harvesting methane - or more accurately, landfill gas (LFG) - a
common greenhouse gas that is known more for its foul odor and
environmentally damaging effects than its potential as a source of
With the rapid onset of the sustainability movement and wider
availability of methane extraction technology, the practice of
methane capture is more popular than ever before. In 2008, the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized 456 operational
landfill-to-gas projects in the United States. In the two years
since, that number has grown to nearly 700.
For municipalities, a recycling program might be the first and
least complicated step toward creating a sustainability plan to
reduce waste and protect the environment. The programs can divert
materials away from landfills, create a revenue stream that
off-sets waste removal program costs, and provide an avenue for
residents to actively participate in a local sustainability
initiative. However, there are key items to watch during the
initial setup and long-term operation of a program.
Most municipalities start a recycling program to meet a mandate,
according to Mick Barry, Vice President of Commodity Trading of
Greenstar North America, a recycling services firm. The mandate
usually comes from the state government, but residents can also
create the mandate by pushing for a recycling program.