Weekly News Bulletin: May 31-Jun. 6, 2016


Waste Connections Completes Merger with Progressive Waste

Waste Connections, Inc. said it has officially completed its merger with Progressive Waste Solutions Ltd. The deal was announced in January. The merged company, to be domiciled in Canada, has annual pro-forma revenue of $4.1 billion, making it North America's third largest waste service provider, behind Waste Management and Republic Services. It will command 273 collection operations, 132 transfer stations, 93 landfills, 71 recycling facilities, 24 saltwater disposal wells, and 20 exploration and production treatment facilities. Waste Connections' CEO Ronald J. Mittelstaedt and company president Steven F. Bouck will continue in their roles at the combined company...Read More »



Progressive Waste Pulls Out of $3.3 Billion New York City Deal

Progressive Waste Solutions is withdrawing from a 20-year, $3.3 billion plan to rail-haul waste from New York City to its giant Seneca Meadows landfill in Waterloo, NY. The company cited local government opposition as a factor in the decision. "The Company and its pending merger partner, Waste Connections, Inc., believe it can no longer commit to meeting certain terms of the proposed New York City contract," the company said in a press release. Consequently, New York's Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has been looking at alternatives including competing proposals from Waste Management, Covanta and possibly Republic Services which submitted proposals in 2014...Read More »



EPA to Update Landfill Methane Rules

EPA expects to update emissions rules aimed at reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) methane from landfills by July 14, a legally binding deadline. The agency is revising its existing landfill emission guidelines, last set in 2000, alongside updated standards for new and modified landfills, which were last set in 1996. It is doing so in response to a 2011 lawsuit brought by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) that asked EPA to update new source performance standards (NSPS) for new and modified sources. Both the proposed emissions guidelines from 2014 and a supplement to the NSPS in 2015 would set an emissions threshold of 34 metric tons of methane, a level at which landfills would be required to begin capturing emissions of landfill gas, which contains methane and other pollutants. This is significantly lower than the 40-ton threshold that EPA floated in the earlier version of the proposed NSPS, and the existing 50-ton threshold. Industry opponents of the landfill rules such as the Utility Air Regulatory Group in comments on the proposals say EPA lacks legal authority to update existing source standards issued under Clean Air Act section 111(d), the same provision the agency is using for its sweeping GHG regulations for power plants. Industry also points to economic factors such as low energy prices and an uncertain future for tax credits that makes it harder to capture and recover for energy landfill gas (LFG). Moreover, increased diversion, especially of organic wastes, has resulted in lower levels of LFG content per ton of waste landfilled...Read More »



Companies Caught Exporting E-waste Instead of Recycling

A two year study by environmental watchdog Basel Action Network (BAN) found that hazardous electronic waste (e-waste) continues to be exported overseas, likely in violation of the importing countries' laws. BAN deployed GPS tracking devices in about 200 devices given to recyclers and Goodwill stores under the expectation they would be recycled within the US. The report found that 65 of the 200 devices tracked, or 32.5 percent, were exported, mostly to Asia and likely in violation of importing countries' laws. While 15 percent of the Goodwill donated electronics were exported, 39 percent of those donated directly to US recyclers were exported.

By far, most of the exported used electronics went to the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, the report says, noting that the region does not appear to be enforcing China's long-standing e-waste import ban as diligently as mainland China has begun to do. "Unfortunately, we are seeing considerable backsliding in the electronics industry today compared to just a few years ago," BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett says in a May 9 press release. The report cites damages to human health and environment and businesses as a result of illegal exports. Moving hazardous e-waste across borders to avoid the costs of safely managing it usually means it goes to poorer countries where polluters do not have to pay for the pollution caused by improper disposal or recycling. And, it "robs green business development and sacrifices green jobs in the US where the waste was created, while harming desperate workers and the environment in countries least able to deal with it," the report says...Read More »



Plans to Expand Huge Pennsylvania Landfill Headed to Court

The large Keystone 6,500 ton-per-day Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Pennsylvania, which is only about an hour from New York City, is facing renewed opposition to its expansion plans. A local resident-led group called "Friends of Lackawanna" are appealing a lower court ruling which denied that a local 50-foot height restriction applies to the landfill and that some of the residents lack legal standing to even contest the proposal. Keystone is seeking to expand from 335 to 435 acres. Its original proposal also called for increasing the height of the landfill by 165 feet, topping out at 475 feet, which would have added 48 years to its life. Keystone has since revised its proposed height which would instead give the landfill a 44.6-year lifespan. Attorneys for the landfill have said that the case brought by residents is weak, in part because they don't have any expert witnesses. Owners of the landfill argue that the expansion would add $865 million to the local economy. The landfill has filed a motion to dismiss the Friends of Lackawanna's appeal...Read More »



Groups Argue over EPA's Definition of Solid Waste Rule

Industry and environmentalists are taking issue with the US EPA's 2015 definition of solid waste (DSW) rule. In separate legal briefs, groups question on different grounds the agency's provision excluding "verified recyclers" from hazardous waste rules and dispute other agency arguments in a case asking a federal appellate court to uphold the rule. The DSW rule, issued under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA), was modified by the Obama EPA to require the use of all four of EPA's criteria for determining that recycling of hazardous waste is legitimate, rather than just two criteria under the 2008 Bush-era rule. A case American Petroleum Institute (API) v. EPA, now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will test the legitimacy of the 2015 revision. At issue is how the EPA characterizes the transfer of materials to a third party and whether that constitutes "discard" -- a term key to defining a material as a waste. Industry saysthe EPA is "dramatically" expanding its RCRA jurisdiction "by making the 'legitimacy' factors mandatory for all in-process, recycled or reused 'hazardous secondary materials' -- not just the narrow categories of materials addressed by the 2008 rule's two regulatory exclusions." EPA argues the legitimacy factors merely act as a test to determine if materials are really being recycled...Read More »



UN Report Points to Worsening Problems Around the Globe

The United Nations Environment Programme has released a report that reveals worsening environmental problems around the globe. The agency says of the report, which catalogs issues across the six major regions of the planet, "the most authoritative study that UNEP has ever published on the state of the global environment." "The world shares a host of common environmental threats that are rapidly intensifying in many parts of the world," said a UNEP news release. And, while it found many differences, it also found key common themes. One was worsening air pollution problems, driven by large populations and the swelling of urban cores. Another was widespread water scarcity problems, exacerbated by climate change but also greater demand in growing cities. According to Jacqueline McGlade, UNEP's chief scientist, the root causes basically boil down to two major systemic occurrences with multiple ramifying consequences: a changing climate and an intense trend toward greater urbanization. "Every region, regardless of how it might be perceived from the outside, is suffering from water scarcity," McGlade said...Read More »



Alabama Landfill Files $30-Million Lawsuit Against Locals

Controversy continues to surround Alabama's Arrowhead Landfill where the new owners, Green Group Holdings LLC, has filed a $30-million defamation lawsuit against some local residents. Residents of the landfill, which are 90 percent African American, have fought against the landfill since it was permitted in 2007 on the grounds that it violates environmental justice. Green Group claims that the group is making false claims about noise, rodents and odor from the landfill which were resolved in 2011, when the company acquired the landfill. The citizen's group "Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice" filed a complaint against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) for reissuing permits to the landfill's operators in both 2011 and 2012.

The 1,300-acre landfill is the largest in the state, accepting on average 9,500 tons of waste per day from communities and industries in 33 states. In 2009 the landfill received 5 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston power plant in Tennessee which suffered a massive spill in December 2008...Read More »



Atlanta Recycling Company Files for Bankruptcy

A large Atlanta recycling company has filed for bankruptcy protection amid falling commodity prices that have beset the waste and recycling industry. QRS Recycling of Georgia LLC filed Chapter 11 on May 20 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Atlanta. According to its court filing, beginning in 2014 the company began incurring significant operating expenses in connection with the reorganization and expansion of its business, investing significant capital into its facility, which relied upon new technologies that required greater capital investments than the company initially expected. Also beginning in 2015, the company "was impacted by the downturn in the price of oil, plastic and other related commodities. The low market prices of oil, oil-based plastics and other related commodities have forced the [company] to lower the prices that it sells its recycled plastic materials for." QRS has affiliates that are not part of the filing. They include operations in Baltimore, Md., Louisville, Ky., New Albany, In., and St. Louis, Mo., the company "was part of one of the largest recycling networks in the country, processing thousands of tons of post-consumer plastic, paper, cardboard, metal and commercial dry waste."...Read More »



New York Mob Behind Scheme Sending Illegal Waste to New Jersey

Investigators claim that organized crime is behind the illegal disposal of construction debris and contaminated soil from New York City into various sites in New Jersey. The State Commission of Investigation (SCI) in New Jersey is investigating claims that an organized crime group has been taking advantage of a loophole in New Jersey law that exempts waste brokers from the same strict licensing and background checks required of waste haulers. The criminals acting as what investigators called rogue "dirt brokers" have therefore been able to hire truckers to haul contaminated soil and construction debris to unauthorized locations in New Jersey, including a few notable sites in South Jersey...Read More »



Interstate Batteries Invests in Innovative Lead Recycling Company

Interstate Batteries is investing $10 million for a 5 percent stake in Aqua Metals, Inc. which is commercializing a non-polluting electrochemical lead recycling technology called "AquaRefining." Interstate will also feed roughly 1.1 million batteries to Aqua this year for recycling. Aqua Metals' first AquaRefinery, located in Nevada's Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex, is set to open in July 2016. In 2015, Interstate recycled more than 24.9 million automotive batteries and sold around 17.5 million. It plans to recycle roughly 25 million this year. Interstate sells new and collects old batteries through 280 distributors that service roughly 200,000 battery sellers and dealers across North America. The company has traditionally shipped its batteries to companies to have them smelted. Instead, Aqua's recycling method differs significantly from smelting. AquaRefining is a wet process that uses electrochemical reactions to recycle nearly 100 percent of the lead in a battery and unlike smelting, is an emissions-free process...Read More »



Austin TX Says 80 Percent of its Waste is Recyclable

A study by the City of Austin, TX, as part of its Zero Waste initiative, finds that 80 percent of materials found in the city's trash could have been recycled or composted. It revealed that businesses and apartments generate more than 85 percent of the waste stream while only 15 percent comes from city-served single family homes. Additionally, about 37 percent of the waste sent to area landfills could have been composted. And even though the study pegged the city's community-wide diversion rate at about 42 percent, getting closer to a 50 percent diversion rate it hoped to hit last year, it clearly indicates opportunities to expand diversion even further...Read More »



Waste Management Buys Operations in Kern County, CA

Waste Management Inc. is buying Tehachapi, CA-based Benz Sanitation Inc. and its two sister companies, Tehachapi Recycling Inc. and Benz Propane Co. Inc. Benz had been planning to lay off 132 employees, which will now stay while the owners retire. The acquisition expands the company's Kern County footprint while fitting neatly with its existing operations in nearby Ridgecrest and California City...Read More »


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