It’s time to take a hard look at the value MSW systems are delivering

Sunshine Canyon Landfill Gas-to-Energy

In a recent Waste Dive article “It’s time to look harder at landfills if we’re serious about addressing climate change,” Philipp Schmidt-Pathmann and Stephen Gerritson don’t want to be dramatic, but they do want you to know that we’re at the “tipping point”…again. That’s right, get ready for temperatures to be unacceptable levels of warm (can’t be too warm, can’t be too cold), the rates of severe weather events and our seas will rise (kiss that beachfront property good-bye), and droughts too (don’t want to forget those). No worries though, this can be avoided if we separate organic waste, eliminate Solid Waste systems and RECYCLE EVERYTHING ELSE.

Good grief, seriously? If that’s the “moment of truth” that will affect the “survival of mankind” – we’re screwed.

Philipp and Stephen conveniently cherry-picked the current recycling rate as being “stuck” in the 30% to 35%. The actual overall recovery rate for plastics is more like >10%. But don’t let 50 years of data that proves the inefficiency of recycling plastics get in the way, no! Instead, let’s throw-out Solid Waste systems and force everything into the recycling stream. Not too smart.

They point to solutions using anaerobic digestion, which is what modern landfills are today. But somehow negate these systems in the same breath. So, are they throwing the proverbial “baby out with the bathwater?” According to the U.S. EPA, LFG energy projects across America will capture roughly 60 to 90 percent of the methane. These same projects are providing renewable energy to the grid, heating millions of homes, fueling thousands of fleet vehicles and providing power to industries across North America. With new regulations looming, these capture rates will only continue to improve, as they have over the last few decades, unlike recycling rates.

Today, 85% of U.S. MSW is being sent to these baseload energy sources (because there’s no such thing as a “somewhat” baseload energy source). In fact, it’s RNG from Solid Waste systems that’s helping California to reach carbon negative milestones. And why four bills in Congress name landfill gas as a renewable energy source including America’s (LIFT America) Act, GREEN Act, Clean Energy for America Act and the CLEAN Future Act. But somehow these gentlemen from the Institute for Energy and Resource Management think this existing infrastructure is inefficient and diverting MSW to non-existent recycling streams would be far better. And if you’re buying that, I’ve got that beachfront property for you in Arizona.

We are not going to recycle our way out of pollution or climate change. Plastics can/should be designed to work in the primary managed waste systems (ASTM D5526/D5511) where consumers properly discard plastic waste. Plastics come from energy and plastics are inherently discarded in Solid Waste systems. Solid Waste systems are providing more return value in energy recovery than any other option available today. Ensuring the highest return value throughout the proper lifecycle of an application, using the infrastructures we have available today. That’s taking accountability and achieving circularity.

As for the European model, good on you if you want to incinerate waste for road projects. The U.S. prefers to sequester Solid Waste in highly designed, strictly regulated, anaerobically managed systems to extract the biogas from carbon-based [solid] waste to protect the environment, reduce GHG and recover clean renewable energy. We do this in the ground because we can. After which, that land is repurposed as a nature reserve, park, sanctuary, or golf-course. So, you do you, EU.

Plastics need to work in managed waste systems

There’s an elephant in the room when it comes to the sustainable management of plastics and eliminating pollution.

For nearly a half-century our Solid Waste systems (landfills) have taken a PR beating. Back in the early 80’s it was justifiable concerns over waste management practices, environmental protection and community health. From these concerns, heavy regulations, fees and fines where enacted to fix the problem. Over the past few decades, a remarkable thing has happened, today’s modern landfills are now considered ‘base load’ renewable energy resources. These highly engineered and strictly managed facilities are not only protecting the environment, but have become a global asset to surrounding communities, providing fuel for vehicles, heat for homes and power to industries.

Besides poor waste management practices, a root cause of plastic pollution is the fact that plastics do not inherently work in our managed waste systems. This fact festers in many corporate sustainability strategies, evident by the promises of making plastics work in a compost. Right idea, wrong system.

Every week garbage trucks around the country, running on clean-burning natural gas supplied by Solid Waste systems, provide residential pick-up of all single-use/non-recyclable plastics that consumers properly discard to avoid pollution, and transfer this material to our Solid Waste systems. Oddly, we hear about making plastics work in recycling or making sure plastics are designed to work in a compost [ASTM D6400] (even though the infrastructure does not exist), but why do sustainable packaging professionals fail to recognize the advancements and return value in making sure plastics work in our Solid Waste [ASTM D5526/D5511] systems?

When it comes to lifecycle accountability of plastics and ensuring the highest return value throughout, which is the basic premise of Circularity, there is nothing that compares in Scale, Practice and Return Value to making sure plastics are designed to work in Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) systems.

It’s time to flip the script and change the narrative. Instead of demonizing our Solid Waste infrastructures where plastics are commonly and customarily discard, design for this managed system to ensure a clean planet and clean energy recovery.

Plastics need to work in our waste systems, it’s that simple

In a recent article by Meg Wilcox, “5 sustainable packaging developments to watch in 2021” it’s a race against the clock for companies to meet their sustainability goals. This will be difficult to say the least, although the “100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025” is a catchy mantra, it is filled with empty promises and an utter lack of commonsense. 

The idea that recycling is synonymous with sustainability, and recycling lobbyist calling for MORE money through EPR, is a joke.  Goodrich calls it “groundbreaking”, I’m thinking more on the lines of highway robbery.  The Reuse “experiment” is novel, however the scale is proportional to a freckle on an elephants ass and the core problem (EOL) is admittedly still unanswered.   Plastics do not and should not end-up in an industrial compost, the infrastructure is not available and there’s NO return value.  Plastics are inherently collected/managed in our Solid Waste systems, not Organic.  There is no return value in making plastics Compostable.  We need less rapidly biodegrading waste, not more.  Making plastics perform like organic waste, defeats the purpose, and compounds the problems.  This is the “unintended consequences when you switch from one system to another.”

But first, let’s understand that technologies are widely available today and there are international testing standards to ensure plastics are designed to work in every MANAGED waste system we have available.  Connecting these dots should be the priority of every Sustainable Packaging initiative.

Kate Daly, managing director at Closed Loop Partners states, “…more and more materials are lost to landfill that we’re not able to recapture as a valuable resource.”  I would argue the reason for this is because groups like Closed Loop and SPC miserably fail to see today’s modern landfills as a valuable resource, which they have become. 

It’s a shortsighted and an oddly pervasive problem in the sustainable management of plastics, a lack of knowledge pertaining to how waste is actually managed.   There are several different ways plastics can be disposed after use, landfilling, recycling, incineration, and composting.  The primary systems that capture the majority of discarded plastic waste are specifically designed to protect the environment and convert solid waste (carbon based) into returnable value through anaerobic bioremediation.  Today’s modern landfills have emerged as a major resource for clean renewable energy (LFGE/RNG).  A baseload energy resource that is providing heat for homes, fuel for vehicles and power to industries.

Sustainability managers must first and foremost understand that 90% of plastics are deposited into landfills, properly and customarily to avoid littering.  Even plastics with higher recycling rates such as PET beverage bottles and HDPE bottles have a higher percentage entering the landfill than being recycled.  This means every sustainability decision must provide a beneficial aspect regarding the landfilling of that plastics [ASTM D5526/D5511].  That’s sustainability through accountability, everything else is an experiment in speculation. 

Plastic Recycling: Fact or Fiction?

The great recycling hoax.

Is plastic recycling a hoax?

Would you consider yourself a “recycler?”  Do you religiously empty your bottles and rinse your cans?  Is it painful when there is no recycle bin available and you’re forced to throw plastic packaging in the trash?  If so, this may be a hard pill for you to swallow, but plastic recycling may not be what you think.

For decades we have been led to believe that the plastics we have diligently placed into the recycle bin is recycled back into new plastic items.  Over the decades billions of taxpayer’s dollars have gone into funding the plastic recycling industry. We’ve been convinced that recycling is not only the right thing to do, but its also better for the environment.

In a recent article from Laura Sullivan titled; “How Big Oil Misled the Public into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled” we get taken down the historical rabbit hole on plastic recycling. If you consider yourself a “recycler,” like I did, you will find her article very informative and eye opening. The only question after you read the article will be “how do you respond the next time you have to make a decision on whether to place something in the recycle bin or trash bin?”

Plastics placed into the recycle bin are not being used to make new shiny things nor are they being used to save the planet. In fact, nearly all plastics will end up in a landfill (even if you put it in the recycle bin).

It is time that we stop falling for the big plastic recycling scheme and instead implement science and data driven solutions which prove to have the greatest environmental benefit. Let’s have an honest conversation about where our plastics are discarded and demand plastic packaging work within these environments and have true environmental value at disposal.

Read the full article posted on NPR here: Laura Sullivan; “How Big Oil Misled the Public into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled” 

Sustainability: Fact or Fiction?

If asked could you provide proof that your company’s sustainability efforts are more than just greenwashing? Does your company utilize science, data and facts to drive sustainability solutions over clever marketing or “feel good” stories about sustainability?

The recent Earth Day has caused me to reflect a bit about what is actually being done to improve the environmental condition of the planet.  I watched the self-promotion of companies trying to grab our attention and sell us on how sustainable and environmental they are.  There seems to be a great deal of focus from companies to look at sustainability from a marketing standpoint over what should be truly sustainable or at the least better for the environment.  They promote and make claims about some story or process they have implemented and claim it to be more sustainable.  Unfortunately, nearly all of these companies lack the one critical component of sustainability and that is using science, data and facts to drive their solutions.  It seems to me that many companies, including the big fortune 500 would have the ability and resources to hire the right people to oversee their sustainability efforts and implement solutions which are fact and data driven.  Instead what is observed are companies struggling to truly understand what sustainability is about and end up implementing “feel good” or story based gimmicks to promote how sustainable they are becoming when in truth when analyzing the LCA data of these gimmicks most of these “feel good” approaches offer no environmental value or benefit at all.  Do sales and marketing really have that strong of an influence over sustainability efforts which should be driven by science, facts and data?   

What’s worse is when “experts” are used to push the “the only solution to plastic pollution is producing less plastic,” or “we are going to recycle our way out of this problem” agenda.  It is quite unfortunate when these so called experts thoughtless and meaningless opinions are used to steer solutions to this massive problem of plastic pollution.  I know of a couple of industries who are so fixated on the recycling message that the facts and data completely elude any rational thought.  Anyone who understands global population and economic growth would know that producing less plastics is not in our near future and will most likely never happen without a catastrophic reduction to the human species.  The planet is on a steadily increasing rate of growth which leads to more consumption and with that consumption comes the economic development of poorer nations which leads to accelerated consumption.  It’s a nasty circle driven by the growth of the global population and the desire to live a more consumption based life (the good life).  Regardless of whether we use plastic, paper, mushrooms, algae, space dust, or unicorn farts as our packaging materials we will always need a CRAP ton of it and will need to figure out effective, beneficial (to the environment and economy) and valuable ways of handling it.  Gathering and shipping waste to other parts of the country or other countries in our globe to process isn’t the solution, nor is merely suggesting to the public to reduce plastic use. 

If it’s not plastic it will be some other material we are trying to solve the pollution problem for.  So easily we forget the crisis of the past.  To solve the issue of paper grocery bags (which by the way was going to be the end of all the trees and human life as we knew it) we developed plastic bags which is now the new crisis and surprise! It’s also being promoted as the next cause to the end of the human race.  When will the “experts,” “get it” the problem isn’t what material is being used or how much material we use, it’s what we do with and how we handle that material after use!  This is always going to be the problem of a growing population.  We could always go back to the days of using animal stomachs for transporting liquids but that’s a whole lot of animal stomachs and what would the vegetarians use?  Companies must use packaging materials which are more intelligently designed to work within the infrastructures of our disposal environments to create a value and benefit (both environmentally and economically).     

One such approach is in the conversion of plastic waste in the landfill into clean and inexpensive energy.  This approach requires no special or additional handling of materials and converts plastics into biogas through the natural process of microbes.  It utilizes the existing waste management infrastructures while placing the solution on materials to add value within the common disposal environment of a landfill.  If all plastics were designed to work within their common disposal environment by the year 2030 (11 years) landfill gas into energy would be the single largest source of renewable energy and would surpass all other forms of renewable energy including; wind, solar, and hydro.  Let’s stop the BS hyperbole that landfills are these evil and bad places or that the world is running out of landfill space.  The data and the science show the environmental value and benefit of having materials convert into fuel and energy within the landfill. 

Let’s stop pretending ideas like recycling and reduction are going to solve anything.  Those two words have been used as part of the “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse” campaign since the 1970’s.  After nearly fifty years of that campaign look at the mess of where things are today.  The recycling mess we have today certainly isn’t due to a lack of spending money or repeating the message to brain wash everyone into reducing, reusing, or recycling.  It’s due to the fact that words don’t solve complex plastic pollution problems, it also shows that money doesn’t solve these problems either.  Billions of dollars have been given by governments to subsidized the recycling industry to build and support it and what do we have to show for that investment?  Why is the recycling industry in such a mess given all the money and investment that has been provided and why are we ok with knowing that our recycling efforts have resulted in more plastic pollution to our oceans and planet than any other activity?    

Plastics and other waste should work within their common disposal environments to have an environmental value and benefit at disposal.  I know we all “feel good” about placing things in the “recycle bin” and we don’t want to know about the ugly monster of what truly goes on behind the recycle bin “curtain”.  Our recycling efforts have resulted in massive amounts of plastics being dumped oceans and recycling rates in the single digits, so we can “feel good” about ourselves .  It’s time we stop with the “feel good” approach and start taking action to fix the plastic pollution problem using real science, facts, and data driven solutions.  Implementing solutions with the true meaning of circularity and sustainability would benefit society and the environment much more than this baseless approach of double down and continue pushing plastic recycling programs which have failed to provide environmental value (have severely polluted the planet), requires billions to subsidize and has little science and data to support that it actually has environmental value.  Plastics should be designed to go away (to create environmental value) where plastics are thrown away.  If one of those options should include recycling, then the science and data should support the way the infrastructures of collection, sortation, processing, and transportation are implemented in such a way that has environmental (human health is part of this) and economic value.

Should your company be one the many which has implemented a “sustainability” program or process with no data or science to back up the environmental claims you are engaging in nothing more than greenwashing and misleading consumers in the worse possible way.  Whether your company reduces packaging, utilizes recycled content, switched to a more environmental material, implemented a bring-back recycling program, or any of many other gimmicks make sure you have the science and data to back up your claims.  And I’m not talking about manipulating data to fit your program, I’m talking about letting the data drive and create your programs.  9 times out of 10 you’ll find that the data will show that your brilliant idea to implement a bring-back program or a shoe recycling program offers zero environmental value or benefit and in many cases will have a negative environmental impact requiring more resources and producing more carbon than your program thinks it is helping by figuring out how to reuse a material.  The act of reusing/recycling a material/s is not inherently more environmental, it is only more environmental when it the data shows the processes involved to reuse/recycle those materials has a net environmental benefit/value. 

In the end, your company’s sustainability solutions should be all about the environment; shouldn’t it? 

Exposing the Plastic Recycling Lie

Although this video focuses on Australia we have the identical situation here in the United States. How much more obvious does it need to be before sustainability managers “get a clue” that recycling plastics is 0% about environmental responsibility. Somehow people have gotten the impression that recycling is synonymous with being good for the environment. 9 out of 10 times LCA data on recycling plastics indicate we should be looking for other solutions to our plastic pollution issue.

It’s a downright shame that our recycling efforts over the past decades have resulted in massive plastic pollution in our oceans and to the planet. Unfortunately, noble cause corruption has resulted in good intentions being blindly pursued by so many essentially creating the “religion of recycling”. This blind pursuit has resulted in some of the worst polluting the planet has ever seen, and it’s still happening. Let’s stop being irresponsible and stop promoting unsubstantiated feel-good gimmicks about recycling. Please, let’s begin using facts, data and science to drive environmental and sustainability efforts for our plastic waste.

Waste Expo 2019 – The Good, The Bad & The Auction

Waste Expo in Las Vegas, it was an exciting week, full of education, exhibitors and auctions. The entire event was non-stop activity that left my head spinning, but there were a few interesting take-aways from the event that are definitely worth sharing.

Getting things done: (WARNING: I am starting with the “bad” part first)

It is undeniable that we need change in the way waste is handled. During the sessions there were two different approaches to affecting change.

The first approach was focused on citizen action. Honestly, I was a bit disturbed listening to Kerry Parker from the City of Alameda gloat on how they utilized local school children by organizing elementary school projects of writing letters to businesses and municipal leaders to force a straw ban and require compostable food ware. The specific comment was “we used the kids because who can say no to the children”. This seemed a bit manipulative considering that elementary children would not have the knowledge needed to understand the potential implications of material/product bans and would blindly trust the adults to have done their due diligence. (see the section below on the need for data)

On the other hand, Cheryl Coleman from the US EPA very eloquently established the need for industry collaboration, to reduce the finger pointing of blame and simply work together to create solutions. This may have been a bit of a idealistic viewpoint, but in many ways Cheryl identified a cancerous problem that needs to be addressed should we ever hope to achieve Zero Waste.

The Need for Better Data:

Kerry  Parker from the City of Alameda correctly pointed out that many plastics labeled as “compostable” do not adequately biodegrade in composting and are not included in their city requirement for compostable food ware. This does not apply to all compostable plastics but is a prevalent issue with food ware. This is an issue seen in many municipalities and one which can cause significant issues with food and organics composting.

Cheryl Coleman shared that the EPA is releasing some new SMM programs later this year and is working to release facts and figures related to waste on a more regular schedule.  The goal is that these additional resources will provide better tools and data to assess environmental impact for increased SMM. She also emphasized the need for product engineers to work hand-in-hand with end of life engineers when developing product and packaging designs.

It was interesting to hear the EPA emphasize that the waste hierarchy was only a guidance. Many people consider it a rule that should be followed to the “T”, but Cheryl was quick to remind that the hierarchy should provide a general direction, but one must gather the environmental impact data to determine the optimal discard method for each product. Without this full data set, we cannot understand unintended consequences and the results could be detrimental.

Susan Robinson from Waste Management really drove home that the devil is in the details, we cannot make sustainability related decisions without first gathering LCA data. There are some trendy phrases such as “Circular Economy” and “Zero Waste” that may sound good but they have inherent risks. We need to keep our eye on the prize. The ultimate goal is not to have a circular economy or to achieve a certain reduction in waste – the goal is to reduce our environmental impact. Every decision made needs to be assessed against the overarching and final goal of lowered environmental burdens. This was a concept echoed by several others during the conference including the US EPA and the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF).

Waste Reduction is the Key:

Kerry Parker with the City of Alameda shared the efforts within the city to “unpackage” prepared restaurant food. They found that many of the local restaurants were using disposable packaging for dine-in service.

Another presenter from GARP provided case studies and examples of “alternative use” strategies. This innovative approach takes non-conforming or expired products and finds alternative uses. For example, face creams and lotions can be repackaged into leather conditioners; and brand name laundry detergents can be repackaged and re-scented to be sold as generic laundry soaps. This approach reduces waste while also increasing revenue for the manufacturing company.

One presentation that was very enlightening was Bryan Staley from the Environmental Research & Education Foundation. His presentation reviewed the 10 myths of recycling. Two of the points that really struck me were: Recycling programs can increase waste generation and that the recycling numbers reported are substantially overstated. A recent study of an office setting showed that offering paper recycling INCREASED the use of paper in the office by 82%, similarly in men’s bathrooms the recycling program increased the use of paper towels by 17%! And, because the reported numbers for recycling do not exclude the weight from contamination, the actual amount of materials recycled is expected to be nearly 30% lower than reported.

Waste is Evolving, so is Technology

Anne Johnson from the City of Alameda discussed the changing waste stream and what this means to recycling. The materials that traditionally brought value to recyclers; newspaper, glass and metal; are being replaced by light weight plastics and cardboard. The growth of plastics has a huge burden on the recycling stream as most plastics are not recyclable. This results in contamination within recycling and environmental litter creating a backlash with consumers and an inability of the waste industry to effectively manage the evolving stream.

Mike Dungan from the City of Alameda demonstrated some of the potential benefits through using pyrolysis to process mixed plastics into chemicals and fuel. This is an emerging technology, and potentially a means to extract value from mixed plastics that have entered the recycle stream.

The US EPA gently reminded that contrary to what is seen in the media, recycling is not dead. It is struggling, and we do need to rethink what and how we are recycling. The main focus should be on quality and quantity – more of the right stuff.

Susan Robinson from Waste Management shared some of the innovations driving sustainability at WM. One of the focal points was how WM is extracting renewable energy from their landfills – creating valuable energy from waste and reducing greenhouse gas over 80%. It was exciting to hear that WM expects to have 100% of their fleet powered by landfill gas by in the upcoming years.

Beyond 34 shared their vision of increasing the recycle rates past the current 34%. One of their primary concerns was a focus on increasing the collection rate of traditional recyclables (bottles, cans and paper) rather than increasing the types of materials collected.

And finally, the auction…

If all the information presented in the educational sessions didn’t leave you breathless, the EREF auction was sure to do the job. As the leading non-profit organization providing research and education in the waste sector, EREF was celebrating their 25th anniversary. The event was complete with a sand sculpture, vacation raffles and auctioning everything from Yetti’s, to rare bourbon and heavy equipment to golf outings. One thing you could not deny is that the waste industry is very generous in supporting EREF’s activities and efforts to create a sustainable waste management industry through scholarships, research and education.

Overall, the event was a great educational experience and one that left me confident that the waste industry is focused on sustainable practices through the use of data, LCA and collaboration.  Provided we can keep our eye on the prize, the future does indeed look bright…

Plastic Straw Myths

Let’s step back and use science and data to analyze the plastic pollution issue! Trying to save the environment with feelings based solutions are often worst. How about we look at the facts and data and make decision based on that information, isn’t that what science is for?

Think Waste as a Renewable Resource

Landfills produce renewable energy from waste.

When you think about renewable energy, what comes to mind? Perhaps you picture wind turbines, solar panels or the underground loops of geothermal systems. What you might overlook is a source derived from waste products – the stuff we discard every day.

If that’s the case, you’re not alone. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) endorses landfill gas as a renewable source of energy, right up there with wind and solar, it’s not top-of-mind for most.

At Waste Management, we think about transforming waste materials into energy every single day. In fact, for decades we’ve applied science with creative thinking and problem-solving to derive value from waste.

We’re the largest landfill-gas-to-energy (LFGTE) developer and operator in North America. We operate 130 LFGTE projects at landfills across the country, and we generate enough energy – more than 4.6 million megawatt-hours per year of capacity – to power 460,000 homes.

The LFGTE process is proven, straightforward and efficient. An elaborate system of wells and pipes transports and processes landfill gas, which is a natural byproduct of waste decomposition. The gas is then filtered and compressed so it is usable as fuel. From there, it’s transported to a nearby facility where it powers a set of engines connected to an electrical grid, and sold to public utilities, municipal utilities and power cooperatives.

Think Renewable Natural Gas

Beyond power generation, we’re also a leader in converting landfill gas into clean natural gas fuels that can be distributed for residential, industrial and transportation use.

Renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, is a pipeline-quality gas that is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas and thus can be used in natural gas vehicles. RNG is essentially biogas (the gaseous product of the decomposition of organic matter) that has been processed to specific purity standards. Like conventional natural gas, RNG can be used as a transportation fuel in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). LNG is natural gas in its purified and liquefied form.

In June 2018, we unveiled the latest addition to our RNG facilities at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility in Louisville, Kentucky. Using state-of-the art technology, the facility captures methane and converts it to pipeline-quality natural gas. The Outer Loop facility produces enough RNG each day to fuel about 800 of our CNG collection trucks. 

We also operate two other RNG facilities. At the Milam Landfill in East St. Louis, Illinois, purified gas from the landfill is placed into the Ameren Illinois pipeline. The facility produces about 13,600 diesel gallon equivalents (DGE) per day of RNG, enough to fuel about 620 of our CNG collection trucks. At the American Landfill RNG Facility in Waynesburg, Ohio purified gas from the landfill is placed into the Dominion East Ohio pipeline. The facility produces about 3,600 diesel gallon equivalents (DGE) per day of RNG.

This year, we have two more RNG projects under development at the Skyline Landfill in Ferris, Texas, with completion scheduled for Q4 2019, and the Williamson County Landfill in Hutto, Texas, with completion scheduled for Q1 2020.

With Linde North America, WM pioneered our first facility to produce natural gas from landfill gas.  Our Altamont Landfill in Livermore, California, and has produced renewable liquefied natural gas (LNG) since 2009. Landfill gas at the Altamont Landfill is captured and converted into RNG. Our fleet of transfer trucks traveling between our Davis Street Transfer Station and the landfill are fueled exclusively with this renewable fuel! The facility creates 6,300 gallons per day of RNG or about 3,750 diesel gallon equivalents (DGE) per day, enough to fuel about 170 of our CNG collection trucks. 

Natural gas produced from landfill gas now fuels 32 percent of our natural gas trucks.

Think Solar

Back to our clean energy word association game. When you hear solar, do landfills come to mind? Well, they should, because the sizable geographic footprint of landfills and their proximity to existing infrastructure make them ideal locations for large-scale solar installation. 

The EPA recognizes and promotes the application of solar through its RE-Powering America’s Land initiative encouraging renewable energy development on contaminated lands, landfills and mine sites. At Waste Management’s closed L&D Landfill site in New Jersey, Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) constructed one of the largest landfill-based solar farm projects in the country. In Massachusetts, we collaborated with two project developers and the state Department of Environmental Protection to install four solar farms on closed landfills. PSE&G is also finalizing the commissioning of a solar farm at Waste Management’s closed site at Cinnaminson in New Jersey. This year, we’re also planning to deploy solar on some of our facilities in California. These projects add up and translate to more than 50 MW and growing of power utilizing solar!

All of these innovative technologies are transforming waste stream materials into high-value resources. That’s what we do at Waste Management – and how we think differently about renewable energy. 

Article by Jim Fish – CEO of Waste Management Inc

Read original post:

Coca Cola Chair Pleads For Biodegradable Bottles

Is the ship of sustainability finally altering course so decisions are based on data and science? If we head the advice of Kent, we may just make some progress.

The 2018 Future Smarts Conference brought forth some eye-opening topics, not the least of which was the presentation by Muhtar Kent, Former CEO and current Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Coca-Cola Company, who surprised many attendees by calling on the industry to take action on sustainability by creating biodegradable bottles and collection systems.

“We have got to do a lot better in waste, we have got to do a lot better in innovation, we have got to do a lot better in social value creation,” Kent said. “I plead to the industry to do a lot more in these areas.”

With the current state of recycling and environmental issues surrounding plastics, Kent isn’t the only one looking beyond traditional recycling as a solution to this looming problem.

  • Switzerland is no longer pushing plastic recycling,
  • China, the largest user of recycled plastic implemented Green Fence effectively banning the import of recycled plastics,
  • just last month, Malaysia banned imports of plastic waste,
  • US cities are pulling back recycling programs to include far fewer items, and
  • the largest recycler in the US, Waste Management, has proclaimed that ‘combining effective recycling with landfill gas recovery provides the best bang for the buck’.

Overall the use of biodegradable plastics that are proven to biodegrade effectively in our current collection system (which is a landfill), just makes sense. We have a very effective collection system that keeps plastics out of our oceans. And, landfill biodegradable plastics increase the production of biogas in the landfill. These landfills have already built the collection system to capture the biogas and are returning the biogas to our communities for powering vehicles, homes and businesses.

So, Kent has it mostly right. We, as an industry, need to put more effort into using packaging that is landfill biodegradable.

Actually, let’s put all our effort into using landfill biodegradable plastics because the collection systems are already in place and the conversion systems for the biogas to energy are also already in place.

2018 Beverage Digest Future Smarts Conference