The Big Picture

PCR Credit: Energy Efficient and Low Emissions Operations 

(1-2 Points, Reciprocal)

Credit Summary

This credit aims to reduce the environmental footprint of material recovery facilities and organic processing operations. 

Impact Summary

The implementation of these changes will not only reduce the environmental footprint of the facilities but the cost of running them as well. 

Submittal Summary

To meet this requirement, Local Governments and Industry Leaders must provide documentation proving that the MRF and Organic Processing operations meet either tier 1 or tier 2 conditions.  

Case Study and Benefits

As seen below, the University of Rhode Island study proves that the implementation of an emission reduction program not only reduces the rate at which GHG (greenhouse gases) are emitted but also a reduction in the cost of operating these material recovery facilities. Furthermore, this also benefits diversion rate as a part of these emission reduction plans includes an increase in recycled goods. 

Intent and Requirements


To reduce the environmental footprint of material recovery facilities (MRF) and organic processing operations.

Local Government and Industry Requirements

Demonstrate that the MRF and Organic Processing operations meet the following targets:

Tier 1: (1 Point)

  • Institute best practice dust control techniques
  • Reduce VOC emissions from active composting phase by 80 percent
  • For 50 percent of mobile equipment or 50 percent of total fuel consumption:
    • Utilize electric equipment, and/or
    • Utilize low-sulfur diesel fuel, and/or
    • Install catalytic and particulate pollution control devices, and/or
    • Utilize diesel engines certified as Low NOx (<0.02 g NOx/bhp-hr) by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
  • For 50 percent of onsite Processing Equipment:
    • Utilize electric equipment, and/or
    • Use ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel, and/or
    • Install catalytic and particulate pollution control devices, and/or
    • Utilize ILEV or ULEV diesel engines 25

Tier 2: (+1 Point)

  • Certify to the RIOS ™ Standard.


  • Without compromising health and safety, limit onsite Idle Time for facilities receiving:
    • Less than 100 tons per day: an average of 10 minutes
    • 100-250 tons per day: an average of 15 minutes
    • Over 250 tons per day: an average of 20 minutes

Potential Strategies:

  • Take measures to improve energy efficiency per ton of output (machines and buildings)
  • Procure energy efficient or alternative fueled mobile equipment and vehicles (front-end loaders; forklifts; yard hustlers and other onsite hauling vehicles). 
  • Procure low emission processing equipment with best available emissions control (e.g. windrow turning equipment + other).
  • Minimize emissions from collection vehicle queuing through idling policies and minimizing facility turnaround time.
  • Implement interior and site-level dust & litter suppression.
  • Employ odor control technology as warranted.
  • Methane & other emissions control for composting and anaerobic digesters

Why We Care

According to data from the U.S. EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, as of 2019, the broader waste industry was responsible for 110.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. The waste sector ranks as one of the highest reporting contributors of GHGs. And although Municipal landfills comprised roughly 82.5% of reported waste sector emissions, material recovery facilities (MRFs) are still significant contributors of GHGs that make up the emissions from the entire waste management sector. Emissions associated with the operations of  MRFs can and should be reduced wherever possible. One of the major GHG contributing factors within MRF operations is transportation of materials to and from the facilities, which is why this credit emphasizes and rewards the procurement of energy efficient or alternative fueled mobile equipment and collection vehicles. This credit also rewards policies that reduce idle time of collection vehicles at the facility to reduce emissions. 



How to Meet the Requirements

To meet this requirement, Local Governments and Industry Leaders must provide documentation proving that the MRF and Organic Processing operations meet either tier 1 or tier 2 conditions.  

Required Documentation

A document verifying that MRF and Organic Processing operations meet either tier 1 or tier 2 conditions. 

Case Studies & In-Depth Information

A graduate student from The University of Rhode Island published a thesis showing the different approaches to handling the carbon footprint of waste management services and why, in general, it is a pressing issue. The three services that were studied included Material Recycling Facility (MRF), Municipality Landfill, and Waste-to-Energy Plant (WTE plant). The greenhouse gases that were studied were carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. All of which cause harm to the environment. When an emission reduction plan was introduced, each of the services saw strong reduction in the emission of each of these gases. 

Referenced Standards


Catalytic and Particulate Pollution Control Devices

Catalytic oxidizers and reactors are both air pollution and particulate control devices. Catalytic oxidizers are incinerators which employ catalyst beds to aid the incineration process for gaseous pollutants and particulate matter. The oxidizers are composed of precious or base metal which lowers the required temperatures for initiating oxidation, accelerating the process and reducing the amount of combustible compounds needed to achieve combustion efficiencies comparable to that of thermal oxidizers.

Catalytics reactors are air pollution control devices that are used to mitigate nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions produced by the burning of fossil fuels in industrial applications. These devices inject ammonia into the industrial exhaust and emissions, which reacts with the NOx     compounds to produce nitrogen and oxygen. 

Idle Time

EPA “idling” definition:  the operation of an engine in the operating mode where the engine is not engaged in gear, where the engine operates at a speed at the revolutions per minute specified by the engine or vehicle manufacturer for when the accelerator is fully released and there is no load on the engine.

ILEV Diesel Engines

Material Recovery Facilities

EPA Definition: Refers to a facility where recyclables are sorted into specific categories and processed, or transported to processors, for remanufacturing

Organic Processing Operations

Organics processing operations include having separate collection, composting, mulching, anaerobic digestion, and more advanced composting. Anaerobic digestion places organic material in a bunker that is sealed, and without oxygen the organic material decomposes and produces biogas which can be used as compressed natural gas (CNG) as transportation fuel for operating fleets. 

RIOS Standard

RIOS Definition: The Recycling Industry Operating Standard™ (RIOS™) is an integrated Quality, Environmental, Health and Safety Management System Certification that is designed for recycler, by recyclers. With RIOS™, recyclers are able to obtain certification without having to fit their system into a program designed for manufacturers.  By integrating the management system, recyclers are able to more effectively manage their system, which results in stronger health and safety programs, greater environmental responsibility, and better operational efficiency.

ULEV Diesel Engines

Elgin Definition: ULEV stands for, “Ultra-low-emission Vehicle.” It’s an EV designation that means the vehicle in question puts out 50% less emissions than the overall annual average emissions amount set by the California Air Resources Board.

VCA Definition: ULEVs are currently defined as having less than 75 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km) from the tailpipe.

VOC Emissions

EPA Definition: any compound of carbon, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate, which participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions.

Windrow Turning Equipment

Wikipedia Definition: In agriculture, windrow composting is the production of compost by piling organic matter or biodegradable waste, such as animal manure and crop residues, in long rows (windrows). This method is suited to producing large volumes of compost. These rows are generally turned to improve porosity and oxygen content, mix in or remove moisture, and redistribute cooler and hotter portions of the pile.

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