SWANA Excellence Award Winners: Waste Reduction, Recycling, and Composting Division

Sept. 1, 2002

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Navy Whidbey Recycle

The Navy Whidbey Recycle Solid Waste Management Program was established in 1990 in anticipation of Whidbey’s landfill closure to substantially reduce the amount of waste that would otherwise have to be hauled away at considerable expense to the nearest regional landfill. This program would ultimately provide service for 1,550 Navy family households and for 140 base industrial and office buildings. Today this center serves a population of more than 7,500 military, 2,000 civilian personnel, and 20,000 family members on Whidbey Island, WA.

Since its modest beginnings, the program has grown more than 1,600% in solid waste material recycled, with a whopping 49,444 tons diverted from the wastestream. This allowed it to grow from a 4% recycle rate in 1990 to a 64% recycle rate in 2001.

Whidbey compost site

Through implementing a source-reduction program, composting, and upgrading equipment, the solid wastestream was reduced by 484 tons over 2000 totals. Also in 2001, full-scale operation testing of the Navy’s first in-vessel composting facility was completed. It is expected to further increase the waste diversion rate to more than 75% in years to come. Since program inception, Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island has saved $8.5 million in disposal costs and earned $1.7 million in income from recycled products.

The comprehensive recycling program processes in excess of 50 commodities, including all paper products, metals, plastics, glass, automotive products, electronic media, and used oil. For example, the fuel and oil recovery program collected and sent more than 615,400 gal. to a refinery for future use as heating oil. Hard-to-handle Styrofoam packing peanuts are collected for reuse, saving thousands of dollars each year. Also, refillable toner cartridges are exchanged for new cartridges.

In 2001, Navy Whidbey Recycle provided equipment and personnel in the NAS’s ongoing evaluation of future sludge management alternatives at the wastewater treatment plant. During two demonstration projects of separate mechanical sludge dewatering projects, Navy Whidbey Recycle accepted dewatered biosolids and composted them in accordance with EPA’s most desired sludge management method.

Polystrene packing peanuts are reused

A foodwaste pulping system installed at the station galley has reduced the volume of solid waste generated and provides an additional source of organic material for the compost program. Additionally, a new system was installed to recycle water that is used to wash plates, trays, and other galley utensils.

Previously, seven large compactors have been installed at the NAS, saving collection and transportation costs. The compactors reduce the frequency of the solid waste being transported and have eliminated the need for more than 100 Dumpsters around the NAS. Twelve pickups per month per Dumpster are now replaced with only one per month for the compactor container (a reduction of 900 pickups per month). While providing no direct recycling revenue, these source-reduction efforts resulted in a 41% reduction of pickups, allowing the NAS to reduce “services required” under an existing Base Operation Service Contract. In 2001, eight new compactors were procured and are being installed.

The program diverted just fewer than 6,000 tons of material from the wastestream in 2001 at a cost-avoidance savings of more than $1 million while generating in excess of $137,000 in revenue. Since its modest beginnings, the program has grown more than 1,600% in solid waste materials recycled.

There have been many large payback projects that have helped NAS Whidbey Island reach these goals. Concrete is crushed and used as an aggregate for construction projects. Cooking grease from the restaurants and clubs around the NAS as well as the NAS’s galley is now recycled. Christmas trees are collected by Navy Whidbey Recycle each season, chipped into mulch, and used as a bulking material for the compost program. Additional wood chips are used for erosion control at smaller construction sites.

Composting of dewatered biosolids
Trash compactors

Closed-loop recycling is done at NAS Whidbey Island as well. For example, number-two plastics are sold to a company that remanufactures them into plastic lumber and car stops, which the station purchases back to replace aging concrete stops. When parks are refurbished, the new equipment is made from recycled plastic, steel, and a special rubber cushion turf made of used tires, which provides a safe playing surface. Hard-to-dispose-of polystyrene packing peanuts are now collected and reused by the base supply-shipping department, saving thousands of dollars each year. Containers used for self-service recycling throughout the station are made with recycled materials. In addition, NAS Whidbey Island practices affirmative procurement to ensure that recycled steel and other recycled products are used in construction projects.

In 2001, the compost facility successfully demonstrated “composting” of biosolids from the Ault Field Waste Water Treatment Plant. In the near future, composting biosolids will save the base $565,426 annually over the next leading alternative sludge management method, while incurring almost zero liability. It is expected that this composting facility will further increase the waste diversion rate, pushing it over 75%.

Economics and Cost-Effectiveness

Wastestream reduction, and the associated refuse disposal cost avoidance, is the prime focus at NAS Whidbey Island. Recycled material sales revenue is an added benefit. During the past year Navy Whidbey Recycle achieved a cost avoidance worth $1 million-plus. When combined with recycled material sales revenue of $137,053, the program provided more than $1.1 million in value to the command.

Since program inception in 1990, in excess of 49,444 tons of material was diverted from the wastestream. This amounted to a cost avoidance of more than $8.5 million while bringing in $1.7 million-plus in sales revenue to help fund program operations, environmental projects, and quality-of-life improvements. The combined totals of the program have provided an overall value to the station of more than $10.2 million. In 2001, the efforts saved more than thousands of cubic yards of landfill space. Paper recycling alone saved a small forest of trees, 6.7 million kW of electricity, 95,700 lb. of air pollutants, and a whopping 11,189,000 gal. of water. These savings allow NAS Whidbey Island to effectively perform its mission while providing improved environmental quality for generations to come. Navy Whidbey Recycle has made the following principle a large part of its business policy: Doing the small things as well as the big things. It has built a reputation with customers, suppliers, and buyers that ensures economic success.

The City of Mesa Office Recycling Program

The City of Mesa, AZ, has been providing commercial collection for more than 50 years and has seen expansive growth in the last decade. The city began offering a free office paper recycling program, called Office Pack, in June 1990. Upon initial implementation, the program consisted of 24 city buildings. Although the program was originally designed for internal city offices, a lack of material made it necessary to open the program to external businesses. Businesses with city trash service that wished to participate were given three blue barrels and asked to separate white, colored, and computer paper into different containers. With the expansion of the program to external customers, the program grew steadily to 200-plus locations

Gertrude “Gertie” Thirty

In spring 2001, a new contract with the existing vendor was negotiated that allowed for the collection of office paper through the city’s curbside recycling program. With the change in the contract, all the items are now acceptable in the same container. This change provided the city with the option of collecting more than 175 office paper locations utilizing automated side-loading equipment that was already in the area servicing residential customers.

The consolidation of the office paper program into the curbside program began in July 2001 with the execution of the new contract. One by one, each business was contacted regarding the new program and rerouted into a residential collection area. Most businesses were eager to begin the new program and welcomed the change, including the added responsibility. Although the program was more convenient for the businesses, it did require the reeducation of employees who were accustomed to simply throwing away everything but paper. Education of customers became part of the city’s ongoing external recycling educational campaigns.

In early 2001, staff proposed and city council approved a resolution that mandated city employees use only paper with 30% recycled content. This mandate meant changing the mindset of employees away from the use of virgin materials to comparable recycled-content materials. As part of this resolution, the city also passed a 10% price differential for the purchase of recycled products.

With this new mandate in place, the need to educate city employees sparked a creative ember in staff that made it their goal to develop a fun and ongoing campaign. A cast of fictional characters was developed, each with their own focus on education employees on recycling programs. Topics included buying recycled-content materials and the addition of office paper to the existing commingled program. E-mails, posters, events, and mysterious walkthroughs provide constant reminders of the importance of recycling and buying recycled goods.

Economics and Cost-Effectiveness

Unlike many other similar programs, the city’s recycling programs generate a positive net income. This revenue stream is due in part to the efficiency of the overall operation. The newly developed contract for the processing of recyclable materials ensures an uninterrupted revenue stream to the city. When combined with the monthly user fee associated with trash collection, the city has the ability to offer recycling programs without charge.

The City of Mesa has developed an integrated solid waste management system complemented by a Pay As You Throw fee structure. The office recycling program was created within this system to enhance the recycling opportunities in the City of Mesa. Staff worked to design this program to utilize the same equipment, personnel for administration, collection, and maintenance as is currently being used within the existing system.

In 2000, the average cost to collect material through the office paper program was approximately $8.65/barrel per month, translating to an annual division cost of approximately $18,160. This cost was based on servicing an average of 175 barrels per week using a semiautomated rear-loading vehicle. However, with the evolution of this program into the commingled office recycling program, the per-barrel cost was dramatically reduced. By collecting this material as part of the curbside program, the average cost is now only $1.54/barrel per month.

Prior to the collection of Office Pack, each participating business utilized three barrels for the segregation and collection of office paper. This method of collection required that more than 525 barrels be permanently available for the program. As the program evolved and the paper was combined into a single container, the number of barrels declined to one per customer, or 175.

Gertie Thirty Comes Through

The education of city employees has taken more of a comical turn with the introduction of three characters, each with a different recycling focus. Ms. Gertrude “Gertie” Thirty was introduced in June 2001 to educate employees on the new resolution mandating the use of 30% recycled-content paper. E-mail teasers were issued prior to her arrival to generate interest in the new employee. She was given the responsibility to manage a fictitious department that mirrored the new management policy. A copy of the new resolution and the management policy were distributed via e-mail to all employees. From these documents a recycling quiz was developed and prizes-office-type paper products made of at least 30% recycled-content paper-were awarded.

Additionally, Gertie was assigned her own e-mail address through which she regularly communicates with employees. Posters and flyers were distributed and displayed near printers and copiers, and personal memos were sent to all responsibility center managers throughout the city. Through letters to managers, contests, flyers, and use of citywide e-mail, the use of virgin paper was all but abolished.

The amount of recyclable materials collected has increased steadily since the introduction of the education campaign. Staff is answering requests for additional barrels almost weekly from departments throughout the city. In September 2001, for the first time in its history, the city purchased only 30% recycled-content paper, no virgin. This statistic proves what an effective education campaign can accomplish.

Sumter County Solid Waste, Recycling, and Composting Facility “Paradise”

The Sumter County, FL, facility is designed to eliminate the need for expensive collection equipment and services by coordinating all solid waste materials handling at one location. The Sumter facility is uniquely designed to combine material recovery with in-vessel composting, which can operate as a system or run independently of each other. If one system is down for maintenance, it is bypassed with operations continuing uninterrupted.

The county operates a drop-off system for the convenience of residents who choose to separate and deliver their recyclables to the solid waste facility. The drop-off facility currently has seven 5-yd. Dumpsters for the collection of aluminum cans, glass, steel cans, cardboard, newspaper, and plastics. A separate container is utilized to collect clothing and textiles. The center has been averaging a total volume of more than 10 tons per month.

Another component of the system is a glass processing area utilizing a G.A.M.E. glass processing/pulverizing system that produces a final sandlike product of a 3/8- or 3/16-in. consistency. The finished product of mixed-color ground glass is used in a variety of alternative applications, including landscaping.

The facility accepts nonhazardous materials such as tires, metals, white goods, old furniture, wire, and construction and demolition debris. Useable appliances and electronics are sometimes marketed to interested individuals if possible. Collected pallets are donated to the Sumter Correctional Institute, a state facility, where they are used in trade for needed products. The facility is also permitted to collect used oil and batteries and provides these services to its citizens. Sumter County contracts with the Sumter Correctional Institute to provide inmate labor for the material recovery facility, litter control, and other duties.

The result of this process is Class A compost that is used in landscaping, roadwork, and other applications. All incoming mixed solid waste, approximately 130 tpd currently, is mechanically and manually sorted with recyclable materials recovered and processed for marketing. The remaining materials, consisting of foodwaste, contaminated paper, grass clippings, and other organics, are fed into an in-vessel compost system, or digester, which is a rotating metal cylinder 185 ft. long and 14 ft. in diameter. Sumter County recently installed a new unit, which has an additional capacity of 200 tpd and produces a useable compost material. This unique system results in no air or water pollution. In addition, greenhouse gases caused by normal landfilling are avoided.

Economics and Cost-Effectiveness

The Sumter program operates on revenue from the $49.50/ton tipping fee. This is about the average rate for disposal in Florida; however, Sumter provides disposal and recovery of recyclables for this rate while achieving a 60% diversion or recycling rate. This tipping fee has remained the same for almost a decade and reflects well on the cost-effective management of operations since the county has no special assessment for solid waste activities. Because Sumter is a small county with limited resources, officials have found it necessary to operate even more efficiently than larger operations through its onsite repair facilities and in-house recycling and reuse practices. The system has been operating as budgeted and has exceeded expectations. The system produces revenue from several sources, including the sale of compost, recyclables, working electronics, and industrial scrap. These sales and the tipping fee provide the only source of revenue for the program.

Rolling equipment utilized includes frontloaders, a rolloff truck, dozers, skid-steers, and dump trucks. Other equipment in operation includes balers, disc screens, eddy-current separators, bag openers, conveyor systems, a densifier, a refrigerant vacuum unit, magnetic separators, a hydraulic ram, in-vessel composting equipment, digital thermometer guns, trommel screens, a 20-ft. Scarab machine, and a complete custom-designed glass processing and pulverizing system.

Equipment is carefully selected with design capabilities to do the intended job. However, some pieces of equipment are used in more than one department, such as loaders and skid-steers. The processing equipment was selected as part of a design to handle 100 tpd of solid waste-although operating hours could be extended to increase that capacity. The original digester will be utilized for testing and other projects. The newly installed digester has a capacity of 200 tpd and will help the county handle a growing wastestream and provide the ability to remain on the cutting edge of organics recycling technology.

Sumter County was chosen as the host site for the Florida Organics Recycling Center for Excellence (FORCE), which is a legislatively funded organization providing a framework for recycling and research to help streamline compost processing, demonstration, marketing, and education in Florida. The FORCE partnership includes the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and Sumter County. FORCE is a cooperative effort intended to advance and centralize Florida’s organics recycling infrastructure.

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