Welcome to 2017! A new year. A new president. A new magazine—Waste Today! With the beginning of each new year, many of us take stock of our lives. We look to what we want to improve, and we make resolutions to do better—to exercise more, to save money or to take some other kind of action to improve our lives or the lives of those we care about.
Likewise, for those of us in the waste industry, it is a time for us to take stock of our industry, in particular the state of disposal and diversion. Looking back, 2016 offered a number of notable takeaways related to waste and diversion:
- According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), municipal solid waste (MSW) generation climbed to the highest level in more than 50 years, reaching 258 million tons. At the same time, recycling climbed to its highest national average rate at 34.6 percent.
- The waste stream continued to change. With less paper, less glass, more plastic and more multimaterial films, it is getting harder to meet tonnage-based recycling targets.
- More communities across the U.S. removed glass containers from their curbside recycling collection programs because of the difficulties in processing and marketing the material.
- States and cities continued to push aggressive recycling and diversion targets while not being realistic about what the acceptable programs and infrastructure can provide to accomplish those goals.
- Food waste diversion was a primary focus. It remains one of the largest components of the disposed waste stream that is recoverable and can be diverted.
- Technology and big data continue to advance in the waste industry with sensors, routing and inventory management.
In general, we have a long way to go to get closer to zero waste to landfill. We are doing a good job of storing, collecting, transporting and disposing of solid waste. We can do a better job of diverting before sending the remainder to proper landfill disposal. And just like with personal ambitions, we can resolve to do some better.
So, let’s start 2017 with several waste management New Year’s resolutions:
- We resolve to become more efficient. Whether it is with improving collection systems, vehicle routing, personnel management or facility operations, let’s resolve to do a better job of optimizing our limited resources.
- We resolve to embrace technology. Let’s continue to use technology to improve how we design and manage our solid waste programs.
- We resolve to set realistic, uniform and SMART waste diversion goals. Let’s make sure our goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Let’s develop standards across our industry that we can use to assess the progress of our programs. Let’s work with our legislators to develop the resources to help us meet these goals.
- We resolve to educate. Let’s embrace that behavioral change will come with continuous and targeted education.
- We resolve to be safe. Let’s focus on employee safety and reduce accidents and injuries associated with our industry.
Happy 2017 everyone! And congratulations to GIE Media on Waste Today!