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NWRA's environmental advocacy areas include New Vehicle Technology, Recycling, Healthcare Waste, Sustainable Materials Management and Landfills.
The waste and recycling collection industry operates a fleet of more than 100,000 collection trucks. This fleet is being transformed through the use of alternative fuels, especially natural gas. These unique heavy-duty trucks historically use diesel fuel. If the entire fleet was to switch to alternative fuels, it could reduce diesel fuel consumption by as much as two billion gallons a year, leading to dramatically reduced emissions.
Currently more than 7,500 industry trucks have switched from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) in North America. Many companies within the industry intend to replace their diesel-fueled trucks with alternatively fueled trucks. Fifty percent of new orders for waste collection trucks in the United States are natural gas powered. These trucks are cleaner, quieter and reduce our dependence on foreign imports.
For more information about the role of CNG fueled vehicles in the industry, read:
National Waste & Recycling Association bulletin on the industry conversion from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). October 2013.
Recycling is now happening all around us – every day, everywhere. In the United States, the collection and processing of used products into materials that can be used to manufacture new products is now a common practice (and becoming more so around the world). Recycling, essentially, is making the old new again – today’s newspaper becomes the same material for next month’s headlines; your soda can has a second life as a new beverage container.
Recyclables are collected at the curbside in front of homes, dropped in a public recycling bin (often found alongside trash bins), or taken to drop-off or buy-back centers. Ten states also have deposit return programs encouraging the return of used beverage containers.
MRFs – material recovery facilities – have a wide array of highly-specialized equipment designed to sort and separate different kinds of recyclables, turning them into raw materials for manufacturers. Most MRFs process several different grades of paper, glass bottles, aluminum, steel cans and plastic containers. Organic waste also has a secondary use! At both the home and municipal levels, yard waste and food waste are being composted to create nutrient-rich soil additives or sent to anaerobic digestion facilities to create energy and a digestate product that can be composted or used as animal bedding.
When a recycling program is started, the initial infrastructure investment causes local solid waste management costs to increase. These start-up costs include buying recycling collection trucks and hiring labor; buying processing equipment and hiring sorters/technicians; and creating educational and publicity materials. Sometimes the overall solid waste management costs go down after a recycling program is thoroughly integrated into the local system, but it is not unusual for the overall cost to remain higher with a recycling program.
The National Waste & Recycling Association supports the Healthcare Waste Institute (HWI) whose mission includes:
For more information on the Healthcare Watch Institute, click here.
Source reduction (also called waste prevention) focuses on finding innovative, cost-saving solutions to reuse or otherwise manage materials, ensuring they never again enter the waste stream. Manufacturers are constantly finding ways to substitute lighter materials for heavier materials. They do this to lower manufacturing and distribution costs, but in doing so, they create less waste. Reusable beverage containers and mulching lawnmowers are good examples of source reduction innovations. Source reduction can also include altering designs, manufacturing, purchase, or use of materials before they enter the municipal solid waste management system.
Although the “Great Recession of 2008-09 is blamed for the overall decline in the growth of the waste stream, in fact this recession obscured dynamic changes in the materials we use in our daily lives (also called the “evolving ton”), the affect of source reduction, and zero waste efforts by manufacturers and retailers. Paper consumption was 17 million tons lower in 2011 than in 2010 as we moved from transmitting knowledge by paper to using electronic media instead. Those paper losses are permanent, and are likely to increase. Other changes during this period included a 6.3 million ton increase in the use of plastics.
Despite an increase in the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) over the last 40 years, the Association, its members and the wider industry have championed the safe and increasingly sustainable landfill disposal of MSW generated in the United States. The “garbage dump” is no more. Today’s modern MSW landfills, also called Subtitle D landfills because they are regulated based on the RCRA Subtitle D requirements, are well-engineered facilities operating under strict federal and state regulations to ensure protection of human health and the environment. Many American landfills are also producing energy to power communities, through waste-to-energy technology and landfill gas capture.