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The problem with garbage fundamentally is there just is too much of it.

Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels

In a Seattle Times article back in 2007, Nickels summed up the problem around waste management as it affects U.S. cities. Though the comment may be nearly a decade old, it still rings true, perhaps now more than ever, at time when climate change and its effects are top of mind. Furthermore, a 2013 study from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that recycling rates are beginning to increase nationwide as governments begin to tackle this complex waste issue. Here’s a look at a few items that showed an increased recycling rate from 2012-2013:

recycling rates

For years, major municipalities and mid-size towns have been thinking of ways to reduce the amount of trash in hopes of levelling mountain-sized landfills to flat landscapes. To help them meet this monumental challenge they are considering new technologies and new approaches.

Encouraging Composting and Making a Profit

10 years ago Seattle began to talk about how to deal with too much garbage, now the city is leading the charge as the first city in the nation to legally require composting as well as being the first city to publically disclose and even fine homeowners for not properly sorting their garbage.

history of Seattle composting regulations

Waste management contractors should note that Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center shows that outside of Seattle, 66% of the nation’s cities and towns are also thinking about plans that encourage composting or reusing waste.

 
Budgeted for a $2.3 million program for co-composting wastewater sludge with yard waste and woodchips. It’s a process to further reduce pathogens in treated bio-solids. The City wants sludge of the highest quality so it can be repurposed for use in in parks, greenbelts and other public places. The funding will be dispersed for design in 2018 and construction in 2019.
 
 
Proposed spending $1.6 million to further a composting program project in 2016 and 2017 after already investing in a compost facility several years ago. City officials hope to make an “appealing” product for residents, nurseries and commercial landscapers.
 

Onvia’s Project Center reveals that many government agencies recognize turning waste “green” can definitely be more than a good, earthly deed but can also help the local economy and become a profitable activity. 

 
Issued a bid in December 2014 for a five-year contract to operate its construction, demolition and inerts (CDI) and green waste processing facilities. Operations are expected to increase as cities inside the county plan for curbside green waste and food waste collection. For the green waste, the company will divert the loads to markets such as composting, land application, alternative daily cover or biomass.
 
 
Released an RFP in December 2014 to operate its composting facility at the Caja del Rio landfill and then to market the finished compost and mulch products for sale to prospective buyers.
 

Innovating the Trash Bin

It may come as a surprise, but even trash bin design and engineering can be innovative; municipalities are employing new technologies to aid in managing waste. One example of this is solar-powered trash compactors that help to ease operations costs and reduce overflows of trash.

Onvia’s Project Center shows evidence that local governments and public authorities are beginning to catch on to this trend with 36 solicitations and 25 awards for solar trash compactors in 2013 and 2014.

 
Issued a bid in February 2014 to buy approximately 250 BigBelly solar trash compactor stations for the French Quarter, Downtown Development District and other high-profile city locations. The City hopes to reduce city operating expenses and have cleaner streets, lighten its carbon footprint and secure the containers from rodents and animals.
 
 
Awarded Waste Management of Virginia a contract in June 2013 to buy solar-power compactors at $3,850.55 each.
 

Another emerging trend is cities are buying trash bins with radio frequency identification (RFID) devices to link trash and recycling cans to owners, cut collection costs and encourage recycling. A search in Project Center found 99 solicitations and 22 awards in 2014.

 
Released a bid request in March 2014 for two-wheeled waste/trash carts with customization options and services. Texas wants a fully integrated system to manage all aspects of a cart fleet that includes a uniquely encoded RFID tag installed into each cart’s handle.
 
 
Released a bid in April 2015 for 12,000 blue and 500-650 black and green residential refuse and recycling containers that are embedded with RFID technology.
 

Converting Landfill Gas to Energy

Whether preserving the earth or finding funds in citizen’s trash cans, companies have innovated in fascinating ways that are transforming the waste management industry; cities are even beginning to convert gas created from landfills to a sustainable source of energy. In Project Center there are 48 solicitations in the past two years for landfill gas to energy (LFGE) projects. During the same period local governments announced 24 awards. Contractors should note that the majority of LFGE bids & RFPs have been issued from county-level agencies.

 
Released a request for information (RFI) in November 2014 as it gauges  the feasibility of replacing an existing third-party owned and operated landfill gas-to-energy facility at the Coyote Canyon Landfill in Newport Beach with a new county-owned and operated LFGE facility.
 
 
Issued an RFP in September 2014 to companies that are qualified to operate and maintain LFGE projects and associated landfill gas collection systems at the Oaks and Gude landfills in Montgomery County.
 

The Waste Management Industry is Changing

Cities are interested in new technologies that can turn their waste into money, reduce their environmental impact and track their trash cans. The reality is that waste won’t disappear while at the same time environmental concerns are growing. Companies and state and local agencies realize this and are innovating the industry. Companies in the construction industry can find new opportunities as can firms that offer services to support day-to-day waste management operations and maintenance services. As advanced technology improves city trash collection and recycling efforts, even telecommunications and wireless companies can find their niche in garbage.