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2010 MWMA Fall Summit Explores New Technologies, Best Practices, Environmental Regulations

By Susan Jarvis and Judy Sheahan
October 18, 2010


More than 70 public and private sector environmental professionals met September 28 through October 1 in Baltimore (MD) for the 2010 Municipal Waste Management Association (MWMA) Fall Summit. Led by MWMA President Robin Davidov, Executive Director of the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, attendees shared best practices with each other, issue experts, and private sector partners, and explored such timely issues as new technologies, recycling, green vehicles, and benchmarking.

After a candid public sector only discussion during the Urban Summit, attendees toured the Wheelbrator Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Company (BRESCO) plant. This Waste-to-Energy (WTE) facility is celebrating its' 25th year in operation and processes 2,250 tons of waste per day. The energy is sold on the PJM grid and powers downtown office buildings, including many city offices. After touring BRESCO, the attendees moved on to the Baltimore Convention Center, which is home to the country's only convention center food waste composting system. This innovative program truly “closes the loop” by composting the food waste generated by events and then using the compost to nourish the roof top herb, vegetable and flower gardens.

Best Practices in Recycling: Philadelphia's Story

Four years ago, Philadelphia's recycling rate was hovering at six percent. Today, the city's recycling rate is 16 percent and is on track to meet its goal of 25 percent in the next few years. This notable upswing is due, in no small part, to the city's innovative partnership with Recycle Bank, which encourages city residents to recycle in exchange for “points.” Residents can use their points in businesses throughout the community, securing significant savings on goods and services they use regularly. The city's pilot program was launched in a neighborhood of single-family homes that already benefited from weekly, single stream collection. Many of the characteristics that made this neighborhood attractive for a pilot program were not available in other areas of the city. The city's Streets and Sanitation Department, led by Commissioner Clarena Tolson, identified the challenges that would make replicating the success of the pilot program difficult. “In other neighborhoods, there was no room for storing large containers; there was no street parking; and most importantly, we were only collecting recycling every other week and it was not a single stream collection,” began Commissioner Tolson. “We had to modify the pilot program to make it work throughout the city.”

When the citywide program began, “We were paying a lot of overtime,” said Commissioner Tolson. “The three-man crew was working manually to weigh and dump each container. It took a lot of time.” Secondly, the city needed to find a solution to the space problem: where would city residents without yards, driveways and garages, store their large recycling containers? In order to encourage recycling for city residents, a decision was made. “We would accept any container. Laundry baskets, trash cans and plastic bins could all be used to collect the residents' recycling,” said Tolson. Instead of weighing, dumping, and recording each individual resident, each neighborhood was collectively rewarded.

“The residents' containers were outfitted with a Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID) tag, which was then scanned for participation.” The truck was weighed upon completion of its route and the neighborhood was “collectively rewarded,” said Recycle Bank Regional Manager Michael D'Angelo.

D'Angelo spoke about the registration, fulfillment, and rewards process, noting that residents receive two points for recycling and one point for trash reduction that is every pound less than the original baseline collection. Residents can use their points at local or national restaurants and retailers or donate them to the public schools.

Both Tolson and D'Angelo spoke about the “pay for performance” aspect to the relationship, which minimizes risk and maximizes benefits for the city. Initially skeptical about implementing the program citywide, Tolson is now pronouncing the program a success. “The increased recycling rates speak for themselves.”

Going Green: Exploring Green Vehicle Technologies, Fuels

Over the last few years, public works and solid waste departments have become the foundation of their city's “green prints.” The city often looks to the environmental fleet for cost savings and environmental innovation. In order to provide the most up to date information a panel briefed attendees about new fuel, fuel cell, and green vehicle technologies.

Dr. Joseph Kovach, Vice President of Technology and Innovation for Parker, gave an overview and update on the company's Hydraulic Hybrid Garbage Trucks. Kovach touted the trucks brake energy recovery of 71 percent compared to 21 percent for electric, the fuel savings, and overall improvement in drivability, braking and reduction in noise. The Hydraulic Hybrid Garbage Truck eliminates up to 45 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year and may realize a cost savings of $6,700 in CO2 taxes per year.

Montgomery County (MD), just outside of Washington (DC), is demonstrating its commitment to sustainability by requiring all refuse and recycling trucks to be powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). Starting in 2010, all trucks must meet 2010 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality and emission standards, must be fueled by CNG, and all supervisors vehicles must be hybrid or CNG vehicles.

Robin Ennis, Chief of Collection Services for the county, briefed attendees on the transition. “It's cleaner, cheaper, quieter, and it's domestic,” she said. CNG reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 80 percent and greenhouse gas emissions between 10-15 percent. “Replacing our diesel powered fleet of refuse and recycling trucks with those powered with compressed natural gas has the same emissions benefits as taking 33,000 passenger cars off the road annually,” she said. Ennis also discussed some of the challenges of CNG vehicles, including the cost of the vehicle, limited fuel stations, and slightly less fuel efficiency than diesel.

The contractors were hired through a competitive procurement, with the first RFP (request for proposal) issued in October of 2009. The first trucks rolled out in April 2010 and the entire fleet will be CNG by June 2012.

Clean Energy Business Development Manager Greg Martin went into more depth about the benefits of CNG fleets. Martin echoed Ennis's “cleaner, cheaper, and domestic” mantra. “It's the cleanest burning fuel out there,” he began. In 2008, there were 150,000 natural gas vehicles and 2,000 fueling stations throughout the United States. Taxis, cargo vans, pickups, town cars, shuttle buses, para-transit, delivery vehicles buses, street sweepers, refuse collection and transfer trucks are all fueled by natural gas today. “There are currently 3,500 natural gas refuse trucks running in the United States today and more cities are choosing these trucks for residential service. Martin gave attendees an overview of the vehicle tax credits available, which range from $2,500 to $32,000.

Fiberight Technologies CEO Craig Stuart-Paul briefed attendees on his company's new technology that is a proprietary fractionation and digestion technology, which refines municipal solid waste into a series of value chain elements including cellulosic sugars and biofuel. This new option can handle hazardous materials in a way that other technologies could not. The technology is now operating at demonstration and pre-commercial levels.

Benchmarking: You Can't Manage What You Can't Measure

Waste Management Eastern Group Collections Operations Director Paul Pengeroth helped attendees identify and implement some basic metrics for collections, including safety, environmental, customer service, cost/efficiency, fleet/ maintenance and financial performance. “In order to start benchmarking, you need to identify either the need or the opportunity,” began Pengeroth. At Waste Management, they looked to identify the “Best in Class,” validate assumptions, determine best practices and key differentials, evaluate applicability, and finally implementation.

During the benchmarking process, it was determined that “top performers” shared some similar characteristics, regardless of their area of expertise and excellence. In all of the company's top performers, there was a commitment to continuous improvement, a passion for process, and a drive for accountability.

Mission to Zero (M2Z), a “systems” approach to health and safety excellence, was launched in 2002. M2Z is “more than a system or set of rules,” said Pengeroth. “It's a behavior focused on zero tolerance for unsafe conditions or actions.” According to the M2Z philosophy, safety is not a priority, but a core value.

In 2000, Waste Management launched a customer service initiative, establishing a service standard across the entire company. Seven metrics were developed, in the areas of set up, residential, recovery, maintenance, commercial, industrial, and customer handling. In 2007, they introduced JD Power as the key metric for customer services, bridging the gap between internal scoring and external perceptions.

Finally, Waste Management explored Employee Engagement as a key to organizational excellence. There are five key areas to measure employee engagement, encompassing evaluations, feedback, professional development, goal setting, and managing change effectively. Of course, concluded Pengeroth, data collection is worthless if you are not willing or able to implement new plans and solutions.

Exploring New Technologies to Meet Waste Reduction Goals

“Is zero waste a possibility?” asked Florida Waste 2 Energy Technical Director David Brosan. After giving a brief overview of current waste-to-energy technology, including anaerobic digestion, gasification, mass burn, pyrolsis, and plasma, Brosan spoke extensively about pyrolsis, the technology his company employs. Pyrolsis is a thermal decomposition that takes place in an environment with little or no oxygen so that gasification does not occur, or is limited, depending on system used. Advantages to using this technology include diversion from landfill, fossil fuel replacement, green electricity and bio-fuels. While public perception of this technology is that it is “untried, untested and unproven,” Brosnan believes that pyrolysis is key to reducing landfilling.

Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. President Harvey Gershman said that waste-to-energy is higher on EPA's Waste Management Hierarchy, ahead of landfilling. Currently, there are 87 Waste-to-Energy Facilities in the United States, with $14 billion in productive assets and with communities continuing to explore conversion technologies as part of their integrated waste management plans. Gershman identified potential risks and issues for communities and urged communities to strive for a truly integrated waste management system.

“Energy from Waste” is Covanta Energy's new technology, designed to meet the challenges from climate change, security, and job creation. In 2007, Covanta tested the technology to convert solid organic matter to mineral diesel fuel, renewable diesel, not bio-diesel. “This technology can save the equivalent of 78 coal fired power plants in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Christine McCoy

Attendees then heard from Energy Vision President Joanna Underwood on the “green fuel revolution.” “Between 2002-2005, the number of natural gas trucks expanded by 84 percent,” said Underwood. She congratulated cities for leading the way on this important step towards a greener fleet.

What's Next: Legislative, Regulatory Update

Jim Eddinger, from EPA's Energy Strategies Group, gave an update on the new EPA rulings for Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers. There are new proposed limits and standards impacting local governments and local businesses that would reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants from existing and new industrial, commercial, and institutional boilers.

EPA has estimated that the cost for implementing control technology for local governments is $2.5 billion, with an annualized cost of $1 billion. The cost for local businesses is estimated to be dramatically more.

On the climate change legislative front, Scott DuBoff, an attorney with Garvey Schubert Barer, said the answer “is complex, far reaching and controversial.” After briefing the attendees on what has happened until now, DuBoff declared the situation a “stalemate.” Additionally, DuBoff updated the attendees on the “tailoring rule” and its relation to biomass and Waste-to-Energy, Green House Gas Emissions and Coal Combustion Residue.

MWMA is the environmental affiliate of The United States Conference of Mayors. For more information on MWMA, or to download the full presentations for the fall summit, log onto www.usmayors.org/mwma. For membership information, contact Susan Jarvis at 202-861-6760 or by e-mail at sjarvis@usmayors.org.