RS&H's Ben Chandler recently wrote "Net Zero Waste - Sorting It Out" for the Public Works Digest. This article is a reprint of the original and was used with permission.
The Army’s Net Zero Waste (NZW) policy challenges installations to eliminate their landfill waste. An installation’s waste stream is a remnant of its processes and procedures, as well as its efficiencies and opportunities for improvement. To effectively reduce waste, an understanding of the activities that produce it are necessary. Installation activities, such as fleet management, training, facility maintenance, mess halls and office operations, produce a wide variety of wastes and by-products, including brake fluids, grease, spent ammunition, latex paint, concertina wire, organic waste, paper and toner cartridges. Systematically documenting the composition, quantity, and disposal methods of these items provides a snapshot of current system conditions, which can pinpoint opportunities for improved performance in the future.
A waste sort involves the physical collection, sorting, and weighing of a sample from an installation’s waste stream. Common waste sort objectives include:
- Determine the composition and quantities of waste being generated
- Measure effectiveness of existing waste management systems
- Identify opportunities for improving systems and strategies
- Collect baseline data for measuring the effectiveness of future waste minimization strategies
A waste sort is the first step towards managing the diverse waste streams generated at an installation. The three-step process provided below has been used at locations throughout CONUS to characterize non-hazardous DoD waste streams and serves as a helpful guide for those seeking to understand their waste streams and actions needed to achieve the Army’s NZW Initiative.
Pre-Waste Sort Actions: Usually 1-2 weeks before a waste sort, the team begins contacting the facility officer to discuss temporary requirements (work area, waste collection procedures, etc.) needed to conduct the waste sort. Waste sort safety considerations are addressed in a Health and Safety Plan (HASP), which is prepared specifically for the waste sort location. Equipment needed includes industrial strength clear plastic bags, scales, tarps, paperwork – forms, duct tape, batteries, shovels, brooms, towels, and a camera. Personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses, gloves, coveralls, and dust masks, are also required.
Waste Sort: Once at the facility, the team checks-in and briefs the facility officer on the day’s activities. After the briefing, the team reviews the HASP and then begins to setup the work area. Paying special attention to local barriers, the team establishes staging areas and the weigh station as close to the waste container(s) as possible. The team begins by removing waste from the container, sorting material into preestablished categories (i.e. recyclables, compostables, etc.) and weighing each waste category. Photography is essential to vividly communicate waste sort results. Once the collection containers are empty and all material has been weighed and categorized, the team returns the sorted material into the designated disposal container (i.e. dumpsters, rolloffs, compactors, etc.) and returns the work area to a clean condition. Depending on the size of the facility and work area conditions, waste sorts take from four to six hours to complete.
Data Analysis and Reporting: Once the data is synthesized and analyzed the report is prepared with photographs to document results. Photographs are essential to motivating personnel to reduce the volume of waste they are generating. The initial sections of the report document the methodology and limitations, such as a dumpster being emptied the day before the sort. The mid-section of the report details the waste types sorted and their weights. The final portion of the report discusses the effectiveness of current waste management practices and recommends improvements on the basis of the NZW Hierarchy.
The waste sort is integral to developing an effective Roadmap to NZW. Over the last six years, these proven techniques helped one of our DoD clients average more than $5 million in net revenue through improved waste management.
This article originally appeared in the Public Works Digest Volume XXV, No. 4 October/November/December 2013 issue.