By Izzy Hamlen, Rising Senior at Deerfield Academy, SWEEP Intern & Rob Watson, Chief Sustainability Officer, Eco-Hub LLC. Founder & Co-chair SWEEP Standard.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predicts that between 2000 and 2050, the world population will grow 50%, global economic activity will grow 500%, and global energy and material use will grow 300%. For the United States, future growth estimates are a 155% rise in population, a 200% increase in GDP, and a 108% growth in energy use.
The centrality of consumption in our economic model and the countervailing impact on resource availability, coupled with the pollution of natural environments, has caused increased scrutiny of the material life cycle.
In recent years, concepts such as the circular economy model have gained traction and are leading people to look at the full process of the material life cycle rather than focusing on just one stage. In 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the framework for Sustainable Material Management (SMM) which addresses the use and reuse of materials throughout multiple cycles to minimize environmental effects.
Implementing circular economy waste management practices requires new forward-thinking policies. The integration of SMM has the potential to achieve these ends. By using a comprehensive approach to target each stage of the material life cycle, SMM can help drastically reduce system-wide impacts and change how we think about environmental protection.
The Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Performance, or SWEEP, Standard is a comprehensive waste and energy framework for local governments and businesses that is designed to optimize waste management and promote continuous improvement towards a zero waste society.
SMM & SWEEP
Sustainable Materials Management Policy (SMMP) credits cover a broad array of government policies, programs, and business strategies aimed at minimizing solid waste generation and improving the performance of solid waste collection, processing, and recovery practices. The SMMP section of SWEEP establishes the intent of and sets goals for local governments and businesses to implement sustainable materials management policies that protect the environment, public health and safety, and help the economy. These policies include promoting greater diversion of recyclable materials, life cycle assessments on environmental performance, and the promotion of source reduction activities.
SMMP Prerequisites & Credits
Credits outline activities that local governments and businesses must complete in order to meet the requirements of the SMMP category. Credits that can be carried out by both the local government or a private business are transferable and are labeled as “reciprocal” in SWEEP. Credits that require the local government or business to complete the task independently are non-transferrable and therefore “non-reciprocal.” Credits 4 and 5 are reciprocal, whereas the rest are reciprocal.
Because government policies and business strategies tend to be independent of one another, this category has the least overlap of all the performance categories in SWEEP. Therefore, the number of SMMP credits and, in some cases, the requirements within these credits differ significantly.
As shown in the figure below, the Local Government Standard has 1 prerequisite and 9 credits total, ranging from credits 1 to 9. Credit 10 does not apply to the Local Government Standard. The Industry Standard has 1 prerequisite and 7 credits total, including credits 1, 3-7, and 10. Because some local government policies cannot be translated into an equivalent task or scope for private businesses, credits 2, 8, and 9 do not apply.
Overview of SMMP Contents:
The Local Government Standard requires local governments to develop or adopt policies, whereas the Industry Standard requires businesses to adopt business strategies and programs, sometimes with different emphases.
Prerequisite 1: Comprehensive Sustainable Materials Management Policy (Local Government) OR Comprehensive Corporate Environmental Policy (Industry)
Design and adopt a Comprehensive Sustainable Materials Management Policy or Program to promote the highest and best use of materials.
Performance Path Credits:
Credit 1: Comprehensive Sustainable Materials Management Lifestyle Analysis and Policy Program (14-19 points)
Adopt a Comprehensive Materials Management Program or Policy to reduce per capita waste disposal. This performance approach integrates source reduction with material diversion, as well as all of the waste characterization requirements described below.
Prescriptive Path Credits:
Credit 2: Materials Processing Infrastructure and Market Development Policy (3 points)
Adopt a policy that facilitates and enforces the development of processing and manufacturing infrastructure for recovered materials. This credit applies to the Local Government Standard only.
Credit 3: Adoption of Diversion and Recycling Goals (Local Government: 1-3 points, Industry: 1-5 points)
Adopt a program or policy that sets specific landfill diversion goals.
Credit 4: Regular Waste Characterization and Generation Study Policy (2 points)
Adopt a program or a policy to regularly collect data on the generation and characterization of collected materials within the local government jurisdiction or within the boundary of the company’s service area.
Credit 5: Advanced Comprehensive Sustainable Materials Management Policy (2 points)
Adopt an advanced program or policy to promote environmental stewardship, including the highest and best use of materials.
Credit 6: Solid Waste Greenhouse Gas Footprint Reduction Policy (Local Government: 3 points, Industry: 5 points)
Local Government: Adopt a policy to measure and reduce the per capita greenhouse gas footprint of the collection, recovery, and disposal of waste within the jurisdiction by at least 20 percent.
Industry: Adopt a company goal to measure and reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of the company by at least 20 percent.
Credit 7: Source Reduction Policy (Local Government: 3 points, Industry: 5 points)
Adopt, and document a policy or a program to promote sustainable product and material reuse, and reduce waste generation and disposal.
Credit 8: Market-Based Waste Management Program Policy (1-3 points)
Adopt incentive/market-based policies to reduce waste generation and to incentivize more efficient waste management systems. This credit applies to the Local Government Standard only.
Performance and Prescriptive Path Credits:
Credit 9: Policy for Comprehensive Public Participation in Solid Waste Management Program Development (2 points)
Adopt a policy to solicit and encourage broad public input into decision-making around solid waste management. This credit applies to the Local Government Standard only.
Credit 10: Comprehensive Public Reporting of Corporate Sustainability (2 points)
Provide public transparency regarding corporate policy and activity around economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable business practices. This credit applies to the Industry Standard only.
Two Ways to Approach SMMP Credits
Both the local government and private business sectors can choose between a performance or a prescriptive pathway to score points in the SMMP category. Prerequisite 1 is required for both paths.
Table 1: Performance Path vs. Prescriptive Path
|PERFORMANCE PATH||OR||PRESCRIPTIVE PATH|
|Local Government: Prerequisite 1, Credit 1, Credit 9|
Industry: Prerequisite 1, Credit 1, Credit 10
|Local Government: Prerequisite 1, Credit 2-9|
Industry: Prerequisite 1, Credit 3-7, Credit 10
The Performance Path does not outline specific requirements that must be fulfilled. Instead, the path consists of a single comprehensive goal to reduce daily per capita disposal by 5.7-6 lbs per person, leaving it up to the jurisdiction or company to develop their own method to best achieve this end. The plan should be designed based on material life cycle principles and gives equal, if not greater, weight to source reduction compared to diversion from disposal. Credit 1 has 2 performance tiers that increasingly reward projects for taking more comprehensive and in-depth sustainable materials management approaches to reduce per capita disposal.
As shown in Table 1, The Prescriptive Path is composed of prerequisite 1, credits 2-8 for the Local Government Standard, and credits 3-7 and 10 for the Industry Standard. The Perspective Path is a collection of individual actions whose total impact is estimated to achieve the performance and points of credit 1. Although the goal is still the same, there are targets and measures set for each credit that a sector must meet in order to attain points.
The Public Participation and Transparency credits (9 & 10) are applicable to either the performance or prescriptive paths.