Solid waste facilities run at a frenetic pace. With high incoming volumes and demanding space constraints, efficiency is of the utmost importance. So when the team at Polk County Solid Waste Management in Minnesota saw an opportunity to ease the burden on its operators while simultaneously streamlining production, they jumped at the chance.
Not satisfied with how the county’s existing payloaders and excavators were performing at handling incoming waste, the team from Polk County Solid Waste Management partnered with a coalition of local municipal solid waste facilities in northern Minnesota to find a better solution.
Polk County participates in a regional integrated solid waste management program that includes the adjoining counties of Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Mahnomen and Norman.
Polk and Beltrami Counties, along with the four other adjacent counties, applied for, and were awarded, a capital assistance grant through the state of Minnesota to upgrade their respective waste facilities. That grant allocated funds for new equipment purchases, and the counties joined together to maximize their purchasing power.
In 2017, the teams began testing various machines from different suppliers. According to Polk Country Solid Waste Management Operations Manager Ron Larson, when operators got the chance to demo the Sennebogen material handler 818 E-Series provided by RMS-Road Machinery and Supplies in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, they knew they found the right fit.
“The selling points were it’s a very smooth-running machine. It’s super quiet, and we really liked that aspect of it because it’s running inside a building. We use it to load a feed hopper, it’s stockpiling waste for us and it’s loading walking floor trucks on a daily basis. We found that it’s just a really nice machine to run. We tested two other machines and we found out that the Sennebogen was just a great fit for us,” Larson says.
According to Larson, Polk County Solid Waste Management took ownership of the Sennebogen material handler 818 E-Series in September 2017 and started using the machine on-site in January 2018. Nearby Beltrami County Transfer Station also took ownership of one 818 E-Series in the fall of 2017. Polk County Transfer Station and the Polk County Landfill each got one 818 E-Series in spring 2018. In total, three new 818 E-Series Sennebogens were purchased in addition to a preowned E-Series for the landfill.
After outfitting the Sennebogen with a Rotobec clamshell bucket, the team was ready to put the machine into action. According to Larson, the difference became immediately apparent.
“This is the first material handler Polk County has owned,” Larson says. “We’ve had excavators and payloaders before, and this machine is different. It gives the operator the capability of just sitting in one spot and doing quarter turns to handle the material instead of having to completely rotate the machine 360 degrees or otherwise move it. It’s much more efficient. It can go from a pile of waste directly to a hopper with limited movement. This also equates to enhanced safety since you’re limiting your required movement.”
Greater efficiency was pivotal for the team at Polk County since the machine is tasked with managing a heavy workload. The facility runs the material handler seven hours per day, five days a week to process approximately 900 to 1,000 tons per week.
Larson says that despite the stresses the facility puts on the machine, the E-Series has proven extremely durable. He notes that for the routine maintenance that is required, most service can be done directly from the ground or from points that are easy to access from the top of the equipment.
Beyond greater efficiency, better safety and streamlined maintenance, Larson says the functionality of the Sennebogen material handlers is more seamless than any machine his operators have used. This translates to greater control and more comfort for the team’s personnel.
“These machines have a short learning curve. Our guys had run other equipment before, but the movement was limited—you couldn’t do much,” he says. “However, once they got into this machine, the motion was so fluid and you could even elevate the cab when you needed to so you could see what was going on better. Beyond that, within 10 or 15 minutes, you essentially had the motion of it down and understood how it handled. It’s been a very good machine for us.”
For more information on Sennebogen’s material handlers for waste: https://sennebogen-na.com/ industries/waste/
While Erik Levy’s classmates at Denison University were busy producing waste at the college’s dining halls and fraternities in the late 1980s, Levy was getting his start collecting it.
As part of his on-campus job, Levy would collect cardboard from across the university and take it to a local recycler. Upon graduation, Levy got the idea to take the concept of cardboard recycling back to his hometown of Boston.
In 1990, armed with just an old 1971 Volkswagen Double Cab (half pickup truck, half bus), Levy founded Save That Stuff to serve commercial customers throughout the metropolitan Boston area.
“Back in 1990, it was the 20th anniversary of Earth Day and there was a little bit of a resurgence of recycling happening at the time,” he says. “That’s right when curbside recycling began to be widely adopted. I just started picking up cardboard and making it cheaper for companies to recycle rather than pay the trash haulers to take it away.”
Levy says that at the time, the local recycler was charging him $15 per ton to dispose of his cardboard, a year later that dropped to $0, and in 1995 cardboard was going for $200 per ton, earning the moniker “brown gold.” Levy noted that when this gold rush abruptly ended months later as commodity prices dropped, his company diversified its offerings and began collecting things like office paper and mixed paper, as well as commingled and single-stream materials from accounts such as retail businesses, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools and other commercial entities.
Getting into organics
As Save That Stuff expanded its collection offerings, so too did the business. Always on the lookout for new opportunities, Levy realized that the time was ripe for organics collection.
“Around 14 years ago, we started to realize that organics were kind of the next area of untapped potential for us,” Levy says. “Not too many businesses were collecting this material for recycling. We became one of the early collectors in the area. Harvard was one of our first customers and then we started putting out separate food waste barrels for back-of-the-house clean food scraps at coffee shops and the more progressive companies that were interested in composting and diverting their food waste.”
Levy says the company would transport these food scraps to farms across the city where they would be used to generate clean dirt at outdoor windrow composting sites.
“There was always a tip fee, back when we started it was around $30 per ton that we had to pay the farms, but we were trying to keep the service at worst case, cost neutral, but in the best case, cheaper than trash, which was $80 to $90 per ton back then,” he says. “Ultimately, we did fine sending this material for composting, but we wanted to be more vertically integrated and get into processing this material ourselves.”
Levy says that he traveled to Europe to visit anaerobic digestion facilities in Switzerland and Germany to see how Save That Stuff might build a facility of its own. However, Levy says, the economics ended up not adding up.
Around the same time, Houston-based Waste Management serendipitously came to Levy with a proposal that worked for all parties.
“Waste Management approached us and said, ‘You guys have the organics volume. You have a centrally located site in the city. Could we build an organics transfer station at your location?’ After trying to do it ourselves, I thought that this made a lot of sense,” Levy says.
Levy continued, “Our location was part of it, but I think that the most important thing was the volume we had. We had the organics customers and [Waste Management] wasn’t going to build a facility themselves and hope that it worked—they needed to make sure they had the volume component figured out. So, it was a natural fit where we would host the facility and get a preferred price for tipping, they would build the site, and we’d kind of co-market the project together.”
The Core of the issue
The site, which became known as Waste Management’s Centralized Organic Recycling (CORe) facility, opened in 2016. CORe accepts more than 100 tons of source-separated organics per day, with material coming from Waste Management, Save That Stuff and third party haulers. According to Levy, Save That Stuff is responsible for bringing in the majority of the volume.
Levy says that after the passage of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commercial Organics Disposal Ban in 2014, which requires food and vegetative material from businesses and institutions that dispose of one ton or more of that material per week to be diverted from landfill, anaerobic digestion became a natural solution for dealing with a more complex waste stream. While at first the city didn’t have the capacity to deal with this waste, CORe helped provide an outlet for commercial operators.
“One of the challenges [with the Commercial Organics Ban] was compostable service ware was suddenly everywhere—everyone had their way of complying and feeling green, which was to go out and buy compostable plates, cups, forks and knives, and plastics derived from polylactic acid (PLA),” Levy says. “In addition, there was packaged food waste and other organic waste with contamination in it you had to contend with. And there wasn’t enough infrastructure in place to handle that, so all the outdoor compositing facilities that I was working with reached their saturation point. … Our way of dealing with this was partnering with Waste Management on CORe, where 8 to 10 percent contamination by weight is incidentally acceptable.”
Upon arriving at the facility, material is sorted and depackaged, with non-organic contamination being collected and sent to a local waste-to-energy facility. Through Waste Management’s patented CORe process, incoming organics are then converted into an engineered bioslurry (EBS), which is sent to the nearby Greater Lawrence Sanitary District wastewater treatment plant. At this plant, biogas is produced through anaerobic digestion to be used for renewable energy via electricity or heat.
Looking at what’s next
Levy’s collection operations that began with a single truck have evolved significantly over the last three decades. His fleet, which is comprised of 30 trucks, has four routes for organics alone that generate 500 tons a week. In total, the company’s annual revenue is $20 million.
While Levy says the company will continue to look for different waste streams that allow the company to diversify its offerings, organics collection appears to have a bright future.
“I’m learning how sought-after the commodity of good, clean dirt is, especially around the Midwest where it’s essential for farming. And in urban areas, places with high disposal and high energy costs, anaerobic digestion is a great solution,” Levy says. “I think organics collection is only going to grow, and when municipalities and residents truly understand the energy value of organics and they see disposal prices continue to rise, I believe organics recycling will continue to be an important part of the solution.”
The author is the editor of Waste Today and can be reached at email@example.com.
Approximately 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten. Most of this wasted food ends up in landfills, and food is the largest single component of municipal solid waste in landfills, according to the 2019 report, “Bans and Beyond: Designing and Implementing Organic Waste Bans and Mandatory Organics Recycling Laws.”
As more businesses, states and municipalities roll out sustainability initiatives, such as San Diego’s Zero Waste Plan that includes a 75 percent waste diversion goal by 2020, organic waste bans to reduce or divert food scrap from landfills are gaining momentum across the country.
Some states—California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont—and municipalities—Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colorado; Hennepin County, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; New York City; San Francisco; and Seattle—have passed organic waste bans or mandatory organics recycling laws. Other states, such as Maryland, and localities are looking to pass similar legislation.
“The issue is getting attention. I don’t think we’re done seeing these types of policies come into place,” says Lorenzo Macaluso, director of Green Business Services at Massachusetts-based environmental nonprofit Center for EcoTechnology (CET), which authored the Bans and Beyond report in collaboration with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic.
The legislative landscape
Connecticut was the first state to pass a commercial organic waste law in 2011, followed by California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont in 2014 and New York in 2019.
Connecticut requires food waste generators, including supermarkets and food manufacturers, to divert their food waste to an organics processing facility. In January, the law extended to other businesses, which can comply by donating surplus food, using food scraps for animal feed, processing food scraps on-site or sending food scraps to a composting or anaerobic digestion (AD) facility.
California’s mandatory commercial recycling law requires certain businesses to subscribe to organic waste recycling services. Massachusetts established its disposal ban through regulation. In 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) added “commercial organic material” to a list of several materials already barred from landfills.
“Some of the bans are legislatively driven. Those often result more in a law [being passed]. Some are regulatory in nature,” Macaluso says. “New York went through a more legislative process, where it went through the governor’s office.”
Rhode Island’s law requires certain businesses and institutions to divert organic waste to authorized composting or AD facilities, or a “facility that uses any other authorized recycling method, including on-site treatment and animal feed.”
While Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law passed in 2012, the phased-in food scrap disposal ban began in 2014. By July, all individuals, businesses, corporations and public entities, in addition to commercial food waste generators, will be banned from disposing of food scraps. Prior to 2020, businesses and households were exempt from the law if they weren’t located within 20 miles of a processing facility.
“We have over 100 transfer stations now across the state that offer food scrap collection,” says Josh Kelly, materials management section chief for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, which is part of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). “That was required because if you’re going to have a ban on something, you need to make it convenient for people.”
New York’s food scrap recycling requirement passed in 2019 as part of the state’s 2020 budget process. The law, which will take effect in 2022, requires food scrap generators that produce more than two tons per week to donate food scraps. It also requires certain food scrap generators to divert food scraps to organic processing facilities.
“Comparing where we are today to several years ago, there’s very significant advancement in the level of activity and awareness about food waste in a handful of states in the Northeast and California. There are also a rising number of jurisdictions either on a county or city level that have similar policies in place,” Macaluso says.
Organic recycling ordinances have popped up in Hennepin County, Minnesota, which adopted new commercial organic recycling and new residential collection requirements in 2018. In Portland, Oregon, a city council ordinance will require businesses to separate and divert food waste in 2020.
“I think across the board where these bans are happening, there’s significantly increased economic activity,” Macaluso says.
"I think across the board where these bans are happening, there’s significantly increased economic activity.” –Lorenzo Macaluso, director of Green Business Services at the Center for EcoTechnology.
According to a MassDEP survey targeting organic waste haulers, processors and composters, all three sectors reported “significant growth” over the last decade. The ban supported more than 500 additional jobs across the sectors from 2010 to 2016 and nearly $175 million in industry activity. Processors planned the highest average capital investments for 2017, followed by haulers, and the analysis projects that growth to continue in Massachusetts.
For haulers, organic waste bans by nature create increased demand for food waste collection services. According to a hauler survey conducted by CET, commercial haulers in Massachusetts reported their customer base grew from 1,350 in 2014 to 2,300 in 2018.
Driven by the market
In 2017, Vermont composting facilities collected more food scraps than ever before, a 9 percent increase from 2016, according to a 2019 Universal Recycling status report.
In 2018, the legislature also made reasonable changes to the law to “address some concerns of different stakeholders,” Kelly says. The modifications included removing the hauler requirement to collect leaf and yard debris and postponing the food scrap hauling requirement to 2020.
“There was a lot of debate around the food scrap hauling requirement,” says Kelly, whose team at DEC oversees implementing the ban. “We surveyed haulers and our municipalities and districts. We came back with results that showed haulers overwhelmingly don’t want to offer food scrap collection.”
Another modification requires haulers to only provide pickup services to businesses and apartment buildings, unless another hauler can provide the service, Kelly says. The state now has more than 20 haulers offering food scrap pickup services.
“If somebody is wanting to get into this market, then that could exempt the other haulers, but I will say they don’t really love the idea of another hauler providing a service, so they start to compete with each other,” he says.
Since the ban, new hauling companies, especially those focused on providing residential food scrap pickup services, have sprouted up. Starting in the summer of 2020, Got Trash and Ruggiero Trash Removal will debut food scrap collection services to residents across several Vermont counties. No Waste Compost, a rising hauler in the commercial and residential space, also reports doubling its customer base from 2018 to 2019, Kelly says.
Vermont has also seen an increase in composting and AD facilities as well as in “traditional solid waste haulers owning and operating these facilities,” he says. Casella, Rutland, Vermont, is opening an organics recovery facility. Vanguard Renewables, Wellesley, Massachusetts, is also developing an anaerobic digestion facility in Salisbury and the construction of the Wyman Frasier Compost Facility is also underway in the state. These facilities didn’t exist before the ban, Kelly notes.
“In Vermont’s experience with the food waste ban, it leads to businesses springing up to meet the demand,” Kelly says. He adds food rescue has increased 50 percent in Vermont since the ban went into effect.
When Vermont passed its Universal Recycling Law, stakeholders worked with the state to develop a set of standardized recycling symbols residents and businesses could recognize, Kelly says, including an apple core on a green background to encourage composting and a whole apple on a purple background to encourage food donation and rescue. Since these symbols were released, haulers and solid waste companies have started displaying them on their trucks and collection bins.
“We’re hopeful that the symbol is used universally for food scrap recycling,” Kelly says. “I hope 20 years from now, you see that apple core everywhere.”
The author is a digital editor of Waste Today and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When looking to improve waste management processes, compactors have become a necessary solution for reducing waste volumes and mitigating the need for collection services. However, unique waste streams often require different types of compactors to manage the specific materials being processed.
For wet waste and organics, which produce liquids after being compacted, a self-contained compactor can be an operator’s best bet. Optimal for restaurants, nursing homes, hotels and more, there are a few considerations to take into account when choosing the right unit for an operator’s needs.
1. The type of material being processed
Before investing in a compactor, operators should understand the type and volume of material that will need to be processed every week. The amount of waste being generated is one of the primary considerations for knowing which type of compactor a business will need. By looking at current waste hauling requirements, an operator can easily determine what type of cubic yardage and waste weights it is generating.
Designed to accommodate high-volume liquid applications, self-contained compactors are ideal for food and medical waste. Also known as “ground-fed” compactors, these units typically sit on the ground and can be found outdoors behind a business.
Unlike stationary compactors, which are best used for solid waste applications, sealed compactors work in conjunction with the container. Permanently attached to the container, the compactor pushes waste into the larger container for accumulation and subsequent pick-up by the hauler. With a holding capacity of anywhere from two to five cubic yards, the compaction ratio achieved by these compactors in usually five to one.
Liquids produced from wet waste can be a big issue with compactors that aren’t self-contained. To separate this byproduct from the solid waste, sealed units feature a drainable sump to gather and dispose of the liquids in a safe and responsible manner. This way, none of the liquids soak into the solid waste during compaction.
A self-contained compactor can protect maintenance and waste collection personnel from these liquids, as well as reduce potential contact with blood borne pathogens (BBP) and needles in medical waste in the process.
“This just provides additional protection in case there’s any contamination, keeping that at-risk medical waste out of the waste stream and reducing exposure to the service personnel,” says Kirk Warren, director of product development at Charlotte, North Carolina-based Wastequip.
2. Cleanliness and security
According to Warren, food and medical waste streams necessitate a different compactor since the byproducts can be harmful to not just personnel, but the compactor’s components. Self-contained compactors help sequester this waste and related byproducts, which creates a more sanitary means of disposal.
Traditional dumpsters often have overflow issues, with waste either piling up around them or having liquids leak out of the container. Sealed compactors help tackle this by preventing liquids and wind-blown trash from escaping the container, which means less litter and time needed for cleanup.
Since businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores and hospitals can be susceptible to insect and rodent infestation, a sealed compactor can help reduce odors and access to the waste. In addition, these compactors can improve a site’s general appearance and cleanliness, prevent scavengers and reduce pilferage.
“As food waste breaks down and rots, [personnel] can be harmed by some of the byproducts,” Warren says. “Whether it’s maggots, potential infection or just from the odors that emanate from it, people find a lot of discomfort there.”
For locations that require heightened security, like airports and apartment complexes, a major benefit of self-contained compactors is that they offer security. To keep waste secure, a self-contained compactor can prevent unauthorized access to waste. By having a sealed container, confidential data is protected inside and a security chute keeps merchandise from being taken out the back door. The enclosed design of the unit also prevents others from using the container to dispose of their own trash or hazardous waste.
Additionally, since these compactors help mitigate the need for frequent pickups, they help reduce the traffic from collection trucks and maintain peace and quiet. These compactors generally can also make for a safer business, taking the responsibility of handling and breaking down waste manually off employees.
When considering purchasing a unit, Warren recommends conducting a waste audit to understand the operator’s preferred application and who will be affected.
“The best way to do that is you want to speak to the employees who are actually engaged in those tasks,” he says. “So, you want to talk to the people who are collecting it, that are emptying it, that have to transport it, and the people that work on the equipment. And when you understand the application, then you can better select the right equipment to safely and efficiently manage your waste stream.”
3. Scheduled maintenance and cost benefits
According to Warren, traditional compactors charged with handling food and medical waste are at risk of needing more frequent maintenance and upkeep.
“As far as components, food waste can be, and is, highly acidic,” he says. “So, because it’s highly acidic, it prematurely wears the steel components because they sit in that [caustic] material and it just rots away.”
Warren recommends that companies research the expected longevity and service intervals that may be required for upkeep when considering a compactor purchase. Factoring in equipment downtime can help an operator better understand these concerns and budget for the business’s needs.
“The end user’s biggest pain point is reducing downtime,” says Warren. “Whether you’re a supermarket, restaurant or a mall, you don’t [want] to worry about your compactor breaking down. And that’s what usually happens, the waste will build up because it’s small and it works its way behind the ram, which pushes the waste into the compactor and builds up over time. “
Having a self-contained unit can help cut down on contamination, minimize downtime and the need for repairs, and save companies money in the process. These compactors also require less cleaning thanks to how they’re designed.
Warren says that compactor manufacturers can design these self-containing units so their hydraulic components are located outside the charge box area, eliminating the need for personnel to clean behind the ram.
“The pivoting ram doesn’t require the cleaning behind it that traditional compactors do,” says Warren. “Manufacturers normally recommend that you clean out behind the ram every 90 days, depending on how often you’re using the equipment. So, that’s four times a year you don’t have to perform that task.”
With any compactor, companies can realize substantial labor and productivity gains. And while choosing the right self-contained compactor for a business can require research and time, it is important for operators to do their homework to understand the benefits of different equipment so they can invest in the right solution for their particular application.
“If you take that first step, you’ll be sure to get the right equipment every time,” says Warren.
The author is the assistant editor for Waste Today and can be contacted at email@example.com.
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