Wednesday’s Virtual SWANApalooza once again started with not only the virtual tradeshow, but SWANA held additional meet and greets in their virtual booth where attendees had the chance to interact one-on-one with Jesse Maxwell, Senior Manager of Advocacy & Safety, Jeremy O’Brien, Director of Applied Research, Shelby Truxon, Membership Program Manager and David Biderman, SWANA’s Executive Director and CEO.

Kicking off the afternoon keynote, was a discussion on PFAS Management Research in Solid Waste Landfills, moderated by Viraj deSilva PhD, PE, BCEE from SCS Engineers and featuring speakers, Morton Barlaz PhD from North Carolina State University, Stephanie Bolyard PhD from EREF, and Timothy Townsend PhD, PE from the University of Florida. The speakers focused on the importance of topic since there is not a lot of established treatment available and research is still being performed to determine those best methods. Barlaz spoke about his work on PFAS in landfill leachate studies, the objectives, approach and preliminary results (which were disrupted by COVID-19 and will be completed within the next few months), as well as concentration and PFAS discharged to POTWs from MSW landfills and the impacts of soil attenuation on PFAS emissions and additional research he was working on.

Along the same line, Townsend also focused on a systems-based approach to understanding the role of waste type management strategies and treatment methods of PFAS in landfills. He discussed examining the diversity and concentration ranges, distribution of PFAS at landfills, PFAS leaching from waste components, and PFAS measurement workflow – collection, preparation and analysis. This included where leachate is generally sampled – leachate pump or lift station, storage or treatment tank, groundwater monitoring well, etc. He stressed that it is important to understand that landfills did not make PFAS, it is from certain types of consumer products that we all use. However, this challenge is a good way to communicate to the public about the situation and what they can do to prevent long-term effects.

Finally, Bolyard talked about EREF’s focus on funding PFAS research and their current grants, which were recently awarded to three PFAS-related projects in 2019, including the Effectiveness of Landfill Liners to Control Transport of PFAS (Craig Benson, University of VA) and Polymer-Based Pre-Treatment for Removal of PFAS from Landfill Leachate(Todd DeJournett, Geosyntec). She also discussed how EREF was advancing PFAS science, not only with funding, but also through EREF’s PFAS Microsite, which is a one-stop resource of technological information relating to PFAS, including a breakdown of the science for a broader audience, highlights from key reports and papers, a comprehensive list of peer-reviewed and non-peer reviews literature and reports, and a list of national and state agency PFAS websites.

After a brief coffee break where attendees could interact online with others and visit or chat the virtual exhibitors, the remaining afternoon sessions began with topics on waste diversion from landfills with MBT technology, chemical recycling, biogas and RNG characterization, Miami-Dade’s recycling contamination abatement program, building a better and safer work environment, optimal routing and scheduling, address recycling challenges, resiliency in the time of COVID-19, and more.

The afternoon keynote focused on Legislation and Policies Needed to Reach Zero Waste to Landfill by 2040, moderated by Steve Simmons from GBB and featuring Bridgett Luther from Continuus Materials, Pamela Beck from Metro, Thierry Boveri from Raftelis, and Ted Michaels from the Energy Recovery Council. Each of them gave their take on what standards and regulations need to be worked on for food waste, recycling and the reuse of materials, as well as investments in technology and funding. Michaels stressed that the low cost of virgin materials is part of the reason why it is so hard to recycle old materials and that we need to make secondary materials more attractive to reuse with the possibility of tax credits or other benefits to the processors but technical assistance will be needed from the state or federal government. Luther explained that we need better sorting technologies in our MRFs, and while some facilities have implemented state-of-the-art systems, others still lack the equipment for top efficiency. Still, she mentioned, we need to look overseas to Europe at what types of systems they are using since they are a great model for what we can in the U.S. She also suggested investments in tax credits to help communities fund these technologies. In the end during the Q&A, all of the speakers talked about thinking in terms of a circular economy, a landfill disposal ban for food and setting up resources to do this, food waste prevention, bringing all parties to the table to discuss solutions, designing EPR systems and more.

The day was filled with great sessions, lively discussions and educational resources. We are looking forward to seeing how all of these talks will play out in the future.