By Maria Rachal
Also in this week’s municipal news roundup: recycling and organics program developments from Cleveland, NYC and Rochester, and still more labor shortages disrupting collection.
A group that has for years been working to establish and promulgate a voluntary sustainable materials management certification dubbed SWEEP, short for Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Performance Standard, has recently added new participants to its still-growing pilot program.
While COVID-19 slowed some progress for SWEEP, pilot participants will work through the certification requirements cycle and help the organization refine its criteria, certification tools and processes. Other municipal participants include Lincoln, Nebraska; Keene, New Hampshire; El Paso, Texas; and Spokane, Washington.
Two of those new pilot participants — one a city, Pittsburg, California, and the other a business partner, Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery (MDRR) — are located near the San Francisco Bay Area. SWEEP Program Associate Sam Yeoman noted the significance of the proximity of the two signups, given the reciprocity baked into the certification.
Pittsburg Environmental Affairs Manager Laura Wright likened Pittsburg and MDRR’s early uptake of SWEEP to the initial days of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification for buildings. “As LEED showed us way back when, in the beginning, when a lot of people didn’t know about it, it laid out things that you kind of didn’t think about,” Wright said.
SWEEP’s assessment areas include aspects of sustainable material management policy, waste generation and prevention, solid waste collection, and post-collection recovery and disposal. From a jurisdiction’s perspective, Wright considers the SWEEP opportunity a great way to establish a “self-check,” or baseline, of how well you’re doing with sustainable practices and diversion, and whether or not recycling and other community programs are really working.
“It’ll really truly tell me: what have we been doing in California since we passed the Recycling Act of 1989, and where we’re going in [SB 1383] with organics in the future,” Wright said, adding the assessment will also help inform Pittsburg’s work with MDDR.
MDRR is only the second private-sector participant after Waste Management. “Actionable information is really what we want. We want to be able to use this as a diagnostic tool for performance, or improvement, and to learn about new ideas and best practices that we can incorporate into our organization and through our partnership with the city,” said MDRR Chief Administrative Officer Kish Rajan.
Rajan views being an early adopter of the standard, although labor-intensive, as a clear way to validate environmental goals and get return on investment: “These aren’t just words that we’re saying about commitment; we’re backing up these commitments with real action, and real effort to maximize the performance of our organization.”