At the start of the pandemic, the Antonacci family started a fundraising campaign called Millions of Meals to contribute to local food banks and encourage organizations to do the same. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has sent along these infographics comparing food insecurity before COVID-19 to March through June of this year. These charts demonstrate just how necessary the Millions of Meals contributions were, and continue to be.
Annually, Massachusetts residents, businesses, and town buildings and schools create about seven million tons of trash, several millions tons of recyclables, and more than one million tons of construction and demolition debris and bulky waste — stuff like couches, carpeting, large toys, refrigerators, and wood from house repairs. We are two of the several thousand employees in Massachusetts who, every day, collect, process, and dispose the material. We bet that you have not wondered who picks up your trash and where it goes. That’s OK with us because it means we are doing our jobs…
From Sonny’s Place to Lindy Farms to Mullen Road, you may have noticed the shiny solar panels on the roofs or carports. They may be an easy thing to overlook or ignore but solar panels serve an important purpose for us and the environment.
On June 12th, USA hosted a grand opening of our latest solar project – a solar powered CNG fueling station at Shoham Road in East Windsor.
This innovative fueling station is the first of its kind in the country. USA’s fleet is now the cleanest powered waste and recycling fleet in the country- utilizing multiple forms of clean, sustainable, and cost-effective energy for fleet fueling.
The compression equipment that pumps natural gas consumes a lot of electricity which was previously purchased from the utility company and likely sourced from fossil fuels. This new solar array consists of 1,689 panels and will produce clean energy for the next 40 years, helping us reduce carbon emissions equivalent to 608,024 lbs. of coal burned or 1,288 barrels of oil.
“USA Hauling and Recycling is proving out such an important model for businesses in the state of Connecticut,” said Dykes. “We know at the department that this project sits at the intersection of our highest environmental and climate priorities, from waste management to renewable energy deployment and greening transportation. It presents a model we hope many others follow.”
This state-of-the-art multi-year project is a partnership between USA, Clean Energy Fuels and Earthlight Technologies.
What’s Next for Solar?
We currently have 13 solar projects with the ability to annually produce more than 1,500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.
To put our projects into perspective, that is sufficient to supply the electricity of 150 average sized single-family homes for an entire year!
Solar panels are expensive to install, but a worthwhile investment for our future. Electricity is provided on site and the company earns one ZREC, or credit, from the state for every 1,000 kilowatt hours produced. These credits are then sold back to the state, as an incentive for installing the solar panels. Our company continues to proactively seek and implement the most innovative and environmentally conscious solutions.
The solar production and cost savings of the panels are checked monthly to determine the best opportunities for investments in solar power at our sites. Some of our sites do not receive an ideal amount of sun to justify the cost of installing solar, but as solar panels and other energy innovations improve, we will explore expansions and continue to be leaders within the industry.
I am sure many of you, given the nature of your employment,
are seen as the resident recycling expert at any summer picnic, family
gathering, or kids sports event. I know I am. More than ever “RECYCLING” is the
subject of everyday conversation and concern, sparked by a deepening concern by
the general public regarding the environment, along with the considerable
shifts in recycling markets worldwide turning the recycling business model on
its head! Headlines about recycling are everywhere, and my goal is to arm you
with some real answers from our industry leader’s perspective regarding the
present and future of recycling in our business and in our communities and
dispel some commonly held, misleading ideas.
Here are some of the questions and answers.
Is it true that we don’t recycle anymore because China
stopped taking the stuff?
No, none of our companies have changed our policies
regarding handling of recyclables. We have found different markets for all the
recycling commodities, although they are at much different prices than they
once were. In some cases, we are even paying to ensure that material we collect
as recyclables are being recycled or
reused. We have also invested in our facilities to deal with the increased
contamination we have seen in the recycling stream.
What did China do that ruined the recycling market so much?
China enacted a policy called the “National Sword” on January
1, 2018. This policy essentially made it impossible to import recyclables from
outside of China into the country. This was a major problem as China previously
purchased 70% of the recyclables generated in the United States and an even
higher percentage from the United States coastal states. The domestic and
global market for recyclables became flooded with material causing the prices
for the commodities to plummet.
Why did the cost of recycling go up so much?
The cost of recycling to the customer- whether a
municipality, an individual resident, or a commercial customer- did not rise
because costs went up, but rather because the value of the recycling stream
fell and that value was used to offset much of the cost to the customer.
How much did the recycling values drop?
The market for recyclables fell to the lowest levels we have
ever seen. Cardboard once sold for $175/ ton dropping to $25/ ton while
newspaper once fetched over $100/ ton and now can cost upwards of $50/ton to
ensure that it goes to a recycler. The prices are end market prices that do not
account for costs to collect, process, package and market the materials.
Is it even worth recycling if it may cost as much as
Yes, for many reasons:
While we are experiencing one of the most
challenging environments we have seen for recycling, commodity pricing is
cyclical and historically we have seen recovery from other challenging times.
Especially in the northeast, there is a finite
space for final disposal capacity. Right now, about 30% of the materials we
discard will never see a burnplant or landfill rather they are processed
through local recycling infrastructure to be used in new products. Practically
speaking, the disposal capacity just does not exist to handle these materials
if they were no longer put through the recycling infrastructure. Abandoning
recycling would cause pricing to skyrocket on all waste streams.
Recycling is an investment in the future of our
environment. There is value in ensuring that materials are used and reused as
many times as possible until we truly must dispose of them.
How do things get better for recycling?
Markets need to develop around the world, especially in the
United States to handle these materials. On the positive side of the story many
shuttered old paper mills are being purchased, revamped and reopened throughout
the United States to take advantage of the supply domestically. The domestic
development of these markets may provide the type of stability and opportunity
in recycling like the discovery of natural gas did for the energy markets in
the United States and would lead to a much more stable and sustainable
recycling model for decades to come.
What can I do?
Recycle right, and encourage your friends and family to do
the same. Since recycling became mainstream in 1994, the recycling stream has
gradually become dirtier and dirtier. Much of this contamination (as we call it
in the industry) comes from good intentioned customers seeking to recycle as
much as possible and putting non-recyclables (contamination) in the recycling
bin because it feels good to think you are recycling. The truth is that this
“wishful recycling” contaminates the whole stream and makes it harder to sort
out and market the right recyclables. There is a great resource at http://www.recyclect.com/
which shows you “what’s in and what’s out” of your recycling bin. This will not
only improve the quality of our materials that we market, but more importantly
it will keep our fellow teammates safer at our recycling facilities.
You can also encourage your local communities and
politicians to support the local recycling infrastructure and the value it
brings to all communities. Recycling and the accompanying services provide for
all our families and protect the environment for generations to come. We must
ensure that uninformed politicians and public officials do not make uneducated
and shortsighted decisions that could be detrimental to the future of
Komal Charania joined EREF in March 2017. She graduated with honors in May 2018 with a degree from North Carolina State University in Environmental Engineering. At EREF, she worked on the State of Practice of Landfill Leachate Management and Treatment in the U.S. project (see description below) within the Data and Policy program. This involved gathering available leachate quality and quantity data in order to get a better understanding of the state of leachate generation, treatment, and management in the United States. In February 2018, she attended GWMS with EREF and presented a poster on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in landfills.