Proper HHW management is clearly beneficial to humans and the environment, but these programs are not necessarily as environmentally sustainable as they could be. So, how can we incorporate sustainability practices into household hazardous waste collection programs?
By Larry Sweetser and David Nightingale, CHMM, S.C.
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) programs provide an opportunity for environmentally appropriate and safe management of hazardous products from households and sometimes small businesses. In keeping with the theme of minimizing environmental impacts, HHW programs should also look at their facilities and operations through the lens of sustainability.
Going Beyond Traditional HHW Management
Collecting HHW helps avoid the potential dangers to household occupants, solid waste workers, disposal in solid waste landfills or abandoned hazardous waste. Proper HHW management is clearly beneficial to humans and the environment, but these programs are not necessarily as environmentally sustainable as they could be. The question we will address this month is, “How can we
incorporate sustainability practices into household hazardous waste collection programs?”
First, we need to answer the question of what is sustainability and then what sustainability practices can be applied to HHW
programs? There is no established definition of “sustainability” but the University of California at Los Angeles Sustainability Committee’s charter1 has a useful definition, which states that sustainability includes, “Integrating sustainable practices into campus operations and long-term planning by minimizing resource consumption and waste generation; establishing innovative procurement practices; using indicators of sustainability that enable assessment of performance; and recognizing, supporting, and rewarding initiatives that promote sustainability. These practices can be incorporated into HHW programs to make them more sustainable.
Incorporating sustainability practices into HHW programs can be guided by development of a thoughtful HHW collection sustainability plan. Sustainability plans often address the
• Facility design and modifications
• Operations and supplies procurement
• Preventing generation and diversion of wastes
• Sustainable waste management
• Examining vendor practices
Successful implementation of sustainable practices in a sustainability plan needs both management commitment as well as involvement of staff in developing and executing the plan. Each component of the HHW program can be analyzed for potential sustainability practices. Once a practice is considered for adoption into the sustainability plan, measurement metrics should be established so that progress can be tracked. Periodic reports on implementation of the sustainability plan and sustainability metrics should be prepared and distributed to measure progress and identify challenges.
Sustainability Facility Design and Modifications
Incorporating Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) concepts into the design or modification of an HHW facility can assist in enhanced sustainability efforts. Green building standards such as LEED often include use of recycled material for construction, natural lighting, solar powered electricity, LED lighting, drought-friendly landscape design, rainwater capture, bioswales, heat-pump water heaters, very-high efficiency heating ventilation and air conditioning rooftop units with advanced controls, and other design features.2
There are a number of HHW collection facilities that have been certified as LEED buildings such as the City of Elk Grove, CA, which was certified LEED Gold. Other building design rating
systems include the WELL Building Standard and the Living Building Challenge. A current King County, WA HHW collection facility design project is leveraging the Living Building Challenge standard.
Energy use intensity (EUI) is a broad measure of sustainability, which includes the use of electricity, natural gas, and other fuels as well as reflecting energy efficiency of the building and onsite energy generation. Energy modeling that estimates EUIs allows you to design new facilities or upgrade existing buildings to minimize the EUI. EUI is calculated to the common units of thousands of British Thermal Units per square foot of floor area per year (kBTU/sq.ft–yr., sometimes shorten to kBTU/sq.ft.) to evaluate your total energy use.
The popular Energy Star Portfolio Manager software, available from the EPA, can benchmark your building against other buildings of similar type.3 Because there are relatively few HHW collection facilities compared to warehouses or office buildings, you have to compare building types that are not explicitly HHW facilities. This limitation complicates meaningful comparisons for HHW facilities. Comparing EUIs with similar HHW facilities in your climate region may often be a more meaningful comparator.
An example of operations metrics include pounds of paper saved by use of double-sided printing, reduced carbon emissions from energy efficient buildings and electric vehicles, and embodied energy and emissions saved from using refurbished instead of new drums.
A review of the lifecycle analysis for an operating practice may impact the selection of a sustainable alternative. Tools are available for determining sustainability using calculator models for waste footprint and emissions such as the economic input-output lifecycle assessment models from Carnegie Mellon University.4 These models compare different levels of energy use, resource consumption and environmental impacts due to the choice of products, materials, and processes from original fabrication and manufacturing, through product use, and, finally, end-of-life impacts.
A few more ideas for making your operations more sustainable include:
• If your program surveys or otherwise tracks customer data, that information can leverage electronic methods rather than paper documentation to reduce paper use and printing supplies. Driver’s license scanners and tablets provide a sustainable alternative and are readily available and in use by many HHW programs.
• Electric forklifts create zero direct air emissions and offer
lower maintenance costs compared to standard propane forklifts. Electric forklifts initially cost more than propane models so that should be considered in the analysis. Pallet jacks can be an even less expensive option especially if the facility has a loading dock and your program has lower waste volumes that limit the frequency of shipments. Ergonomic considerations need to also be considered. Forklifts create the least ergonomic stress while electrically assisted pallet jacks require less physical effort than standard pallet jacks.
• Electric trucks are becoming more available and can compete favorably to internal combustion models regarding lifecycle costs in addition to their reduced air emissions.
Next month’s HHW Corner will finish the sustainability discussion with a review of practices that address the implementation of sustainability plans through preventing generation and diversion of wastes, sustainable waste management and examining vendor practices. | WA
David Nightingale is the Principal at Special Waste Associates in Olympia, WA. He can be reached at (360) 491-2190 or e-mail at [email protected].
Larry Sweetser is President of Sweetser Associates, Inc. in Richmond, CA. He can be reached at (510) 703-0898 or e-mail [email protected]
2. An example of the next generation commercially available very-high efficiency rooftop HVAC system is the ultra-efficient Ventacity heat recovery ventilator (HRV), dedicated outdoor air supply (DOAS), and Fujitsu variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heat pump. See www.fujitsu-general.com/us/products/vrf/ventacity/vs3000rt.html
• www.sanjoseca.gov/your-government/environment/energy/green-building/ environmental-innovation-center