SWEEP Creates Framework for Sustainable Material Recovery Programs
By Duncan Watson and Rob Watson
The Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Protocol (SWEEP) is an expert crowdsourced effort to create a voluntary performance standard for Municipalities and the Solid Waste Industry. Seeking a blend of practical and best practices, SWEEP has developed performance credits to recognize leadership in solid waste management in across 6 categories.
- Sustainable Materials Management Policies (SMMP)
- Waste Generation and Prevention (WGP)
- Solid Waste Collection (SWC)
- Post-Collection Recovery (PCR)
- Post-Collection Disposal (PCD)
In the category of Post Collection Recovery (PCR) SWEEP looks at practices aimed at avoiding landfilling or one-off disposal of discarded materials by preserving and utilizing its residual material value. PCR credits seek to achieve the best blend of maximizing resource value while considering environmental externalities. The Municipal PCR requirements of SWEEP take into account four key performance indicators (KPI):
- Efficiency and Effectiveness
- Environmental Performance
- Economic Performance
- Working Conditions and Social Impact
While the Key Performance Indicators are relatively straightforward the devil is in the details.
In the Efficiency/Effectiveness KPI category, PCR Credit 1, Material Recovery Optimization, seeks to set meta-performance levels for recovery of materials from the municipal waste stream based on the recovery infrastructure in place. Credit 2, Minimize Contamination Rate, establishes bale quality standards for each type of material, depending upon the type of recovery facility used. PCR Credit 3, Producing High-Quality Products From Recovered Organic Materials, sets STA-certified compost requirements for composting facilities, as well as gas quality and processing requirements for anaerobic digestion. Credit 4, Anaerobic Digestion Infrastructure gives credit for developing the physical infrastructure necessary for anaerobically digesting municipal food waste. Credit 5, Compact Commodity/Output Supply Chain, gives increasing credit for increasing compactness of recovered material processing facilities based on the distance from the processing facility.
Under the Environmental Performance KPI, PCR Credit 6, Energy Efficient and Low Emissions Operations, gives credit for operations and equipment that are energy efficient and low emitting. Credit 7, Clean And Efficient Material Recovery And Organics Processing Facilities, looks at the physical infrastructure of recovered material operations. Credit 8, Alternative Fueled Rolling Stock, rewards facilities for utilizing gaseous or liquid fuels derived from recovered materials.
The starting point for the Economic Performance KPI, focuses on reporting and transparency of recovery operations and costs. PCR Credit 9 gives SWEEP credit for simply reporting the process and cost of material recovery and organics processing operations.
There are three credits in the Working Conditions And Social Impact KPI. Credit 10, Good Neighbor Policy, rewards facilities that have no unaddressed complaints or violations based on noise, traffic, pests or odors, among other items. PCR Credit 11, Post Collection Recovery Facility Safety Protocols and Training, credits regular safety training that is delivered in an accessible manner and has a documented safety training system in place. Finally, Credit 12, OSHA Compliant Material Recovery and Organics Processing Facilities, credits having a current OSHA compliance safety plan and current completed audit. Additional points are given for not having unresolved violations for varying periods of time.
The full breadth of the Post Collection Recovery category embraces both a micro and macro view of optimizing material recovery, minimizing contamination, and producing marketable commodities, while ensuring that all practices are efficient and consider the holistic environmental impact(s) and the human condition. Innovative managers of municipal solid waste programs confront these issues every day, but not necessarily with the critical eye that allows the consideration of practices that might be different from business as usual. Deciding whether one practice is better than another, and the reflection necessary to reinvent where necessary as new information or new technology allows for change can be a difficult process and SWEEP can act as a roadmap for sustainable operations practice by providing a framework definition of sustainable material management practices for municipalities and companies that provide these services to them.
It can be difficult to look in the mirror, or admit that a program isn’t optimal. Sometimes there are constraints we are forced to work with. The SWEEP protocol reignites the curiosity that brought us to this living laboratory in the first place. With the collective wisdom of all who have walked these miles we realize that we are not alone, and it’s critical we keep asking “what if”? Our communities and our environment deserve no less from us.
Duncan Watson is a member of the SWEEP Steering Committee. He is the Assistant Public Works Director/Solid Waste Manager for the City of Keene, NH. Located in southwest New Hampshire Keene has a population of 23,000 that more than doubles during the daytime due to a state college located in the community and several large employers that headquarter in Keene. Duncan is also the President of the Board of Trustees of the Northeast Resource Recovery Association- a nonprofit marketing cooperative for recycling commodities and providing technical assistance for municipalities and businesses in New England.
Rob Watson is the Founder and Co-Chair of SWEEP. He is the Chief Sustainability Officer for EcoHub LLC and is known as the Founder of the LEED Green Building Rating System.