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Everyone Speaking the Same Language

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I was once at a wedding that included guests from the Philippines, Italy, Mexico, Scotland, and the US. At one point in the celebration, the music stopped and the large room filled with hundreds of voices speaking multiple languages. It was interesting to me when I would hear a word in one language that was the same in another language and had the same meaning. Pronunciation may have been slightly different, but the definition was identical. Unfortunately, it seemed that the language barrier kept entire groups from mingling and conversing with other groups even though they had a lot of words in common as well as many experiences in common. New friendships were not made.    

This is my allegory for how we measure recycling and recycling progress from the East Coast to the West Coast. We are in need of one standard of measurement, one “language” to be spoken.

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This week, SWANA has announced a move in that direction by stating its new “Technical Policy for Measuring Recycling.” This promotes the use of a consistent methodology for the recycling industry.

Part of SWANA’s statement says:

“The Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) International Board unanimously approved a new technical policy citing the need for entities to measure recycling progress and encouraging the development of a consistent methodology.

Although the historic measure for recycling has been weight-based, SWANA is encouraging the ongoing evaluation of different metrics, to gain a holistic and better view of the domestic recycling process.

‘As organizations throughout the United States begin utilizing the identified weight-based standard within the new technical policy, staff members will be able to review and determine how their programs compare to others at a clear and concise baseline starting point,’ said Robert Smouse, Assistant Director of Solid Waste for the City of Fort Worth, Texas, and now current Director of SWANA’s Planning and Management Technical Division. ‘In addition, organizations can convert and interpret their recycling weights into additional beneficial attributes, such as economic influences, environment contributions, greenhouse gas generation, life cycle impacts, and energy comparisons.’”

The MRF Summit at WASTECON last week in Nashville, TN, included a panel discussion on the issue that was mentioned in the announcement.

“With increased quality requirements for recyclables in the wake of China’s waste import restrictions, some material in a limited number of states is temporarily being disposed in landfills. This is leading many industry leaders to take a fresh look at local recycling programs and requirements, including how we measure such programs. This issue was discussed at the MRF Summit that took place last week at WASTECON 2018 in Nashville.  

‘Adoption of this policy represents the culmination of a collaborative, four-year process among a wide range of stakeholders,’ said Scott Pasternak, Senior Project Manager at Burns & McDonnell, who led efforts to develop the policy as Director of SWANA’s Planning and Management Technical Division. ‘A uniform recycling measurement standard is a great benefit to all in the solid waste and recycling industry.’”  

For those who wish to see the full announcement, it’s been posted on our website.

If you would like to download a full copy of SWANA’s new T-6.4 Technical Policy on Measuring Recycling, please click here.

What are your thoughts on creating a standard metric for measuring recycling across North America?

Please let me know in the comments below. MSW_bug_web

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