SWANA: This Was Not Your Typical WASTECON

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SWANA’s WASTECON® 2019 explored the Pathway to Innovation in Phoenix

ON OCTOBER 21–24, WASTECON® 2019: Pathway to Innovation showcased the first phase of the re-engineered WASTECON. The event has been re-tooled into an executive leadership summit and the city of Phoenix, with its startups, business incubators, accelerators, entrepreneurs, and universities to cultivate a circular economy and job creation was the perfect setting for this new program. The newly curated platform created especially for solid waste directors and their senior leadership teams presented leadership and management concepts through the lens of municipal solid waste management.

WASTECON is SWANA’s largest municipal solid waste leadership conference that brought together management teams that are truly concerned for their communities and residents. These teams want to make their communities better and find sustainable solutions that can drive economic growth and conserve resources. Participants chose from a variety of unique experiences to explore.

WASTECON 2019 brought new ideas and activities to take back to the office!WASTECON 2019 brought new ideas and activities to take back to the office!

SWANA continued its emphasis on recycling issues that the industry is currently facing though a number of powerful keynote presentations. These speakers shared ground-breaking ideas that are creating pathways to innovation.

Jon Vander Ark, President of Republic Services Inc.Jon Vander Ark, President of Republic Services Inc.

Jon Vander Ark, President of Republic Services Inc., kicked off WASTECON describing how his company is leading the way towards reimagining how the recycling industry can remain viable for future generations and showed what could be the solution to a broken business model.

Kathleen Salyer, Deputy Director, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.Kathleen Salyer, Deputy Director, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, Washington, D.C.

EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery Deputy Director, Kathleen Salyer, shared the progress that has been made to construct the new framework for advancing recycling in the U.S. workgroup member. 44 organizations, including SWANA, have signed the EPA’s American Recycles Pledge and have formed four workgroups to develop consistent messages for recycling issues, create a virtual clearinghouse of information that is publicly available, explore opportunities to spur regional and local market development activities, and compile existing information on metrics and measures for recycling.

%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="5de810707ebba58e0e8b4825" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" data-embed-alt="Michelle Ogburn, Manager, Solid Waste Inspections, Compliance &amp; Enforcement Unit, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality" data-embed-src="https://base.imgix.net/files/base/ebm/msw/image/2019/12/ms1911_10_3.5de8106d809ba.png?auto=format&fit=max&w=1440" data-embed-caption="Michelle Ogburn, Manager, Solid Waste Inspections,<br>Compliance & Enforcement Unit, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality" ]}%

Intel’s Waste and Recycling Manager, Taimur Burki, talked with Michelle Ogburn from Arizona Department of Environmental Quality about the importance of creating a culture of sustainability inside your organization. Mr. Burki summarized Intel’s minimal waste footprint: “In 2018, we sent just 4% of our hazardous waste to landfill—and since 2010, we’ve kept that number below 5%. But as the rate has fluctuated slightly from year to year, it’s a good reminder that it’s an ongoing journey.”

Taimur Burki, Waste and Recycling Manager at IntelTaimur Burki, Waste and Recycling Manager at Intel

In collaboration with Arizona State University, WASTECON delved into leadership topics such as mindfulness, storytelling, and foresight.

Dr. Teri Pipe, Chief Well-Being Officer at the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, Arizona State UniversityDr. Teri Pipe, Chief Well-Being Officer at the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, Arizona State University

With Dr. Teri Pipe, Chief Well-Being Officer at the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, Arizona State University, participants learned techniques to increase focus and attention to reduce the impact of distractions and interruptions. These are key to helping create a safer work environment. WASTECON attendees had the opportunity to practice their new mindfulness skills in the mobile mindfulness studio that was located in the exhibit hall.

Dr. Travis May, Storytelling and Workforce Faculty, South Mountain Community CollegeDr. Travis May, Storytelling and Workforce Faculty,
South Mountain Community College

Solid waste leaders who attended WASTECON had a unique opportunity to hone their communication skills with Dr. Travis May, Storytelling and Workforce Faculty at South Mountain Community College. Dr. May led a lively session aimed to help the solid waste industry engage its stakeholders as the first installment of the Storytelling Discovery Series. Participants had the chance to continue practicing their newly acquired skills in a deep dive session on mastering storytelling following the keynote address.

Attendees get a quick demo of technology and products at the exhibit hall.Attendees get a quick demo of technology and
products at the exhibit hall.

Futurist and economist, Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation Consulting Inc., presented excerpts from her report, The Next Big Things: The Future of Local Government. The report, commissioned by the Alliance for Innovation, details four forces and more than 40 trends that local governments are predicted to face over the next 20 years. A small group of solid waste leaders met with Ms. Ryan to take a deeper dive into these trends and begin to identify those that would most directly affect municipal solid waste management. These leaders reported their findings and predictions to the entire WASTECON audience in the closing keynote.

Rebecca Ryan, Futurist and Economist, NEXT Generation ConsultingRebecca Ryan, Futurist and Economist, NEXT Generation Consulting

SWANA’s 2019 Safety Summit also took place at WASTECON in Phoenix. Safety sessions began with a keynote presentation by Zachary Barnett, Director of the Phoenix Area Office OSHA, who discussed the new OSHA national alliance with SWANA and and the National Waste and Recycling Association to protect the safety and health of workers in the solid waste industry. 2019 SWANA Safety Award Winners were also recognized for their achievements. The City of San Antonio, Solid Waste Management Department won Best Safety Innovation, Lakeshore Recycling Systems won the Biggest Safety Improvement, and the City of Casper Regional Landfill received Honorable Mention.

WASTECON also introduced Catalyst Sessions this year. Catalyst Sessions were quick education experiences that took place in exhibitors’ booths throughout the exhibit hall. Presentations and demonstrations were performed for small groups. This gave attendees a better chance to engage with the exhibitors and learn more about new technologies and products.

SafetyFirst™ Prismatic Reflective SDTGA Decal on display and available for purchase to promote SWANA’s safety initiative Slow Down to Get AroundSafetyFirst™ Prismatic Reflective SDTGA Decal on display and available for purchase to promote SWANA’s safety initiative Slow Down to Get Around

Networking was an essential part of WASTECON. This included the “Titans of the Industry” Golf Tournament teed off Monday morning, Breakfast Breakthrough sessions, and the Wednesday Night Networking Event at Corona Ranch and Rodeo Grounds.

Participants also had a chance to chill out at the Oasis Lounge and mingle at the Innovation Café to discuss poster presentations and projects.

The Young Professionals (YPs), individuals in the solid waste industry 35 years or younger, had the chance to break away and meet peers at their Networking Event at Hard Rock Café. SWANA’s International Solid Waste Design Competition also took place, which gives student teams the opportunity to compete to solve “real work” problems faced by solid waste professionals.

WASTECON® 2019 gave attendees the opportunity to not only learn new information but experience it all in one place. From networking events, to training, and educational tours, WASTECON offered everything needed to succeed. Want to experience it? Join SWANA at WASTECON 2020 at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas, Texas, from December 7–10, 2020. For more information, visit WASTECON.org.


SWANApalooza is Headed to Atlanta, GA

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THE SOLID WASTE ASSOCIATION OF NORTH AMERICA is excited to bring SWANApalooza to Atlanta, taking place March 23–26, 2020. SWANApalooza is SWANA’s premier technical gathering for professionals to explore environmental solutions for integrated solid waste management.

Join SWANA at the premier industry gathering to:

  • Discover the solid waste and recycling industry’s hottest topics
  • Explore solutions to tackle your organization’s challenges
  • Network with waste service leaders, government officials, solution providers, and more!

Join us as we connect our resources and examine the groundbreaking work of advancing solid waste management. SWANApalooza 2020 will be held at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia, from March 23–26, 2020. Visit SWANApalooza.org for more information.


Insight on Colombian Landfills

David Biderman, CEO and Executive Director of SWANA

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My 22 years in the solid waste industry did not prepare me for this: several months of fragrant municipal solid waste (tens of thousands of tons), uncovered, at a landfill in the achingly beautiful Colombian countryside.

On June 10–14, I visited Colombia as part of SWANA’s landfill training and capacity building project. This multi-year project, funded by a U.S. State Department grant, is intended to provide landfill managers and governmental officials in Colombia with training on how to run and regulate disposal facilities in a more environmentally protective manner. The project will culminate with a week-long Training Center in Bogota, Colombia, in June 2020.

We selected Colombia for several reasons. First, SWANA has a close relationship with ISWA’s National Member in Colombia (MAG), and this consulting company is very well-regarded by both private and public sector representatives. Second, unlike some Latin American nations, Colombia is making a real effort to improve its solid waste management infrastructure, and governmental officials are more likely to be amenable to proposed changes. Third, the language barrier in Colombia is more easily overcome than in other countries (Yo hablo un poco de español). Fourth, Colombia is more accessible than other developing countries. Finally, and importantly, Colombia is considered a “Free Trade Agreement” country by the State Department, which made it attractive from the U.S. government’s perspective.

The June 2019 trip’s objectives were: (1) to visit a variety of landfills throughout Colombia to get a better understanding of how they are operated; (2) identify the differences between them and their U.S. counterparts; and (3) educate landfill managers and government officials about the project and the June 2020 Training. Our trip, which included representatives from MAG and our consultant, ERG, was a success.

We visited nine landfills in three different parts of Colombia over five days. I do a lot of business travel, but this was a particularly challenging trip. Most of the landfills were 1–2 hours away from our hotel, and several hours away from each other. We usually got on the road before 7:30 a.m., and at the end of most days, went to an airport and flew to the next city, often arriving at our hotel after 11 p.m. There was precious little downtime to explore Colombia, with the notable exception of a short visit to a beautiful cathedral in the small town of Buga.

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We saw a wide variety of different-sized landfills, which was enlightening. Most of the landfills shared common characteristics. They were usually well-sited with few residential neighbors. They had leachate control and treatment systems. They generally do not have landfill gas collection systems. Several landfills had huge flocks of birds on the working face and throughout the property. By North American standards, they do not adequately cover the trash, which in a country with frequent tropical downpours results in high levels of leachate. Interestingly, landfills in Colombia are rate-regulated, and part of the methodology for determining the disposal rate is the amount of leachate treated, which likely contributes to some of the landfills’ operational decisions.

We held several meetings with governmental officials concerning the project. Unlike in the United States, where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the sole federal agency that regulates landfills, there are at least four federal agencies in Colombia that regulate landfills. In addition, there are regional authorities that also play an important role. Although this multi-tiered regulatory system could make it more difficult to make meaningful and widespread changes, all of these agencies are very excited about the project and the opportunity it will provide to improve landfill operations in Colombia. We received similar feedback from the landfill owners, who spent hours with us touring their facilities and answering questions.

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We are currently planning the next stage in the project. We hosted a Landfill Study Tour in Georgia the week of November 18. We expect about a dozen Colombians, and a few delegates from Chile and Peru to visit a variety of private and country-owned landfills, meet with EPA Region 4 and Georgia officials in Atlanta, and hear about some of the goods and services available from American companies that can help improve their operations. It will be a whirlwind of a week, and we are very pleased by the response from the disposal facilities we intend to visit. After the Landfill Study Tour, we will review the lessons learned and develop the final, and most important, component of the project: the Training Center next year in Colombia. ERG is already hard at work developing the outline of the modules that will be covered in Bogota, which will be based in part on SWANA’s Landfill Basics course.

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A final takeaway, for me, is how incredibly blessed I am to do the work that I do. I am very fortunate to travel to exotic locations on behalf of SWANA and interact with other solid waste professionals. The State Department is pleased with our initial work on this project and has provided additional funding to expand the November 2019 Landfill Study Tour to include representatives from other Latin American countries. I truly believe that this project, and others like it, will improve solid waste management in Colombia and other developing countries. This will improve the lives of tens of millions of people, and reduce the adverse environmental impacts associated with landfills. It has already enhanced SWANA’s reputation as a global subject matter expert on solid waste issues, and I expect this will only continue in future years.


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SWANA Training and Certification 2019 Wrap-Up

Take a look inside SWANA’s Training and Certification program.

SWANA HAS BEEN training and certifying individuals in the solid waste industry for over 25 years, starting with Landfill Management or MOLO and adding its tenth Certification training course a year and a half ago—Zero Waste Principles & Practices, which was co-developed with the California Resource Recovery Association. SWANA certification is an important professional achievement. SWANA Certified professionals are among an elite group of solid waste professionals who demonstrate advanced knowledge in the industry and familiarity with the best management practices and regulatory requirements.

SWANA Faculty teaching the Zero Waste Principles & Practices course at SWANApalooza 2019 in BostonSWANA Faculty teaching the Zero Waste Principles & Practices course at SWANApalooza 2019 in Boston

Several states and provinces accept SWANA certification as the standard of excellence and accomplishment for solid waste employees. Becoming a SWANA Certified professional benefits you in many other ways:

Professionalism Certification demonstrates a high level of professionalism to your coworkers, employer, and customers, enhancing your consultative value and promotional advancement
Leadership Certification signifies that you are dedicated to continuous self-improvement and the maintenance of professional standards
Recognition SWANA Certified (S.C.) professionals receive a personalized certificate and the privilege of using the S.C. designation on business cards, letterhead, and other business materials
Knowledge Certification improves your understanding of current best practices, trends, and regulatory requirements in the solid waste industry
Achievement The S.C. designation applies to a small percentage of solid waste professionals, indicating you are a leader in your profession

Certifications are valid for three years and are offered in ten disciplines:

  • Collection Systems
  • Composting Programs
  • Construction and Demolition Materials
  • HHW & CESQG Collection Operations
  • Integrated SW Management Systems
  • Landfill Management (MOLO)
  • Leachate Recirculation & Bioreactor Landfills
  • Recycling Systems
  • Transfer Station
  • Zero Waste Principles & Practices

Most of SWANA’s Certification exams can be taken online.

SWANA has been the leading source of information, education, and training programs for solid waste professionals. SWANA has trained thousands over the years in industry best practices, current trends, and emerging technologies. Whether you prefer online training or training at your workplace, SWANA has it!

In addition to SWANA National Training Centers and Chapter Training, SWANA offers the unique opportunity to bring training to your own workplace through SWANA’s Training@Work program. SWANA also offers a variety of training options that can be done at your own pace and from the comfort of your home or office. All options earn you continuing education credits (CEUs).

SWANA traveled to Guam for the Pacific Islands Environment Conference in June 2019 and offered courses for attendees.SWANA traveled to Guam for the Pacific Islands Environment Conference in June 2019 and offered courses for attendees.

Trainaing@Work The Training@Work program brings SWANA’s nationally recognized training program and one of our Certified Faculty instructors directly to your location of choice to teach the class. This cost-effective option allows for greater flexibility and less downtime. Our workplace training solutions offer outstanding return on investment and contribute to your bottom-line.
Training@HQ SWANA Certification training courses taught at SWANA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Two- to three-day classes taught by SWANA Faculty instructors give you the opportunity to learn and network with other industry professionals from around the country.
Self-Study Courses Each course includes a manual that you review at your own pace, and an exam to test your knowledge.
Online Certification Training Courses Instructor-led courses that are taught online for your convenience and are available as recordings. Most of SWANA’s Certification exams can be taken online.

Register for the SWANA Training Center in Atlanta, GA, March 23—26, 2020.Register for the SWANA Training Center in Atlanta, GA, March 23—26, 2020.

Please visit swana.org/training for more information on SWANA training and swana.org/certification for Certification information.

Join us at SWANApalooza in Atlanta, Georgia, for the next SWANA National conference and training center.


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ARF Reports Available for Download

SWANA’s Applied Research Foundation releases four reports for free to all SWANA Members.

FOUR NEW REPORTS developed by the SWANA Applied Research Foundation and published in 2018 are now available to all SWANA members free of charge.

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A report entitled Mechanical Biological Treatment of Residual Waste: Lessons from Europe presents valuable lessons that can be learned from the implementation of Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facilities in Europe. The report has been developed in response to the growing interest in the implementation of zero waste systems in North America since many zero waste systems will utilize some type of MBT facility to process residual waste that is not recovered through recycling programs.

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A similar report—Thermal Treatment of Residual Waste: Lessons from Europe—documents why developed countries in Western Europe have embraced thermal treatment and are processing 97 million tons of residual waste in over 500 Waste-to-Energy facilities located in 22 countries. While acknowledging the differences between North American and European markets, the report presents a range of key findings that can help solid waste managers in North America when determining whether thermal treatment is a viable option for their community.

Together, these two reports provide factual data and up-to-date information that will enable SWANA members to consider and compare these two technologies that can be used for processing and recovering additional materials and energy from residual waste that is not targeted by source-separation recycling programs in their communities.

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A third report—Benchmarking the Performance and Costs of MSW Landfills – 2017 Update—features new data on landfill productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness after analyzing the overall performance and costs of 49 municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills in the United States and Canada. Findings from this report confirm the significant economies of scale that are associated with landfill operations and the importance of minimizing cover soil usage to conserve landfill airspace.

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A fourth report—Service Options for the Curbside Collection of Residential Yard Waste—utilized the City of Charlotte, North Carolina, as a model to provide an analysis of the city’s current program and explore new yard waste collection options such as automated collection, reducing collection frequency on a seasonal or annual basis, and requiring the use of compostable bags.

While SWANA charges $99.99 for each of these reports to non-members, they are now being made available to SWANA members free of charge as a member benefit.


New Report Provides Options for Curbside Recycling Programs

SWANA’s Applied Research Foundation report looks at the impact of China’s National Sword Policy

AN IMPORTANT NEW report issued by the Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) Applied Research Foundation (ARF) provides a number of significant observations and insights regarding the impacts of China’s National Sword Policy on curbside recycling programs in the United States and Canada and the resets that can be made to address them.

Curbside Collection of Single-Stream Recyclables—St. Petersburg, FLCurbside Collection of Single-Stream Recyclables—St. Petersburg, FL

China’s National Sword policy banned the import of several recyclable materials from all countries—including mixed paper and mixed plastics—on January 1, 2018, and reduced the acceptable level of contamination in scrap and recyclable materials not banned to 0.5%, effective March 1, 2018. China also imposed tariffs on many recyclables specifically from the United States—including cardboard, other recovered fiber, metals, and plastics—in August 2018.

National Sword has contributed substantially to a 50% reduction in the revenues received from the sale of recyclables recovered through curbside recycling. In addition, it has resulted in increased processing costs and residue rates at materials recovery facilities (MRFs).

“The China National Sword policy is providing recycling program managers with an opportunity to reevaluate the costs, funding mechanisms, and materials targeted by their curbside recycling programs in an effort to make them more sustainable and effective,” says Jeremy O’Brien, P.E., SWANA’s Director of Applied Research.

The report, “Resetting Curbside Recycling Programs in the Wake of China,” presents several options that can be implemented to counter the impacts of China’s National Sword policy. One example would be to switch from a weekly to bi-weekly schedule for curbside recyclables collection.

“We expect municipal officials and other key recycling stakeholders will review the important data, conclusions, and recommendations from this ARF report and incorporate them into their recycling programs. Local governments have several options that are preferable to dropping curbside recycling programs,” stated David Biderman, SWANA’s Executive Director and CEO. Biderman added that this fall will be an active one on the recycling policy front, with the November release of EPA’s long-awaited national recycling framework and congressional activity on bills that would support recycling programs.

China’s National Sword policy underscores the need to address the high contamination levels of incoming single-stream recycling loads that are processed at MRFs. Contamination is costing curbside recycling programs over $1 billion per year on a national basis when additional collection and processing costs associated with contamination are considered. While contamination has not been caused by National Sword, the need to clean up recyclable streams has been highlighted by the new restrictions.

The full report, “Resetting Curbside Recycling Programs in the Wake of China,” is currently only available to SWANA ARF subscribers. SWANA members receive free access to ARF industry reports one year after publication. The report can be accessed before the year is up by joining ARF as an organization. For more information on the SWANA Applied Research Foundation, contact Jeremy K. O’Brien, P.E., Director of Applied Research at SWANA, at jobrien@swana.org, or 704-906-7269.

To learn more, check out the Executive Summary of the new report at swana.org/Research/ResettingRecycling.aspx.

For more information on SWANA, visit swana.org.

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