Distribution and treatment of waste in SC

Greenville wants to be greener. What are the possible developments with respect to local waste disposal and recycling programs?

New reduction in the number of landfills to keep only the largest managed industrially according to perfectly controlled methods, but this will have a much higher cost. Large companies that master these processes and which by nature are not tied to a territory will be in a favorable position.

Export waste over long distances where landfills are politically acceptable

Note here the difference with continental Europe where the USA regarding junk disposal. This is already being done to Canada and Texas using dumpster rentals and probably tomorrow to Mexico. Development of alternative solutions: incineration and recycling. The problem, however, is that these methods are not perfect in the American context.

– The country has 176 incinerators around 1990; they treat 3% of household waste and are divided into two technologies, one which consists of burning the waste (mass burn) and the other which recovers combustion energy (waste to energy) to produce steam and electricity. According to Greenville waste management experts, his last technique remains underdeveloped because the costs of energy — oil, gas or nuclear — remain too low to be an incentive.

Greenville recycling

For recycling, the question remains how to build a market that is profitable in recycling.

We will retain from the above the very important role played by public regulations in the formation of these markets. By following the major federal programs, we see very well how a sequence works in which the public authorities intervene directly in the construction of markets: it makes a question problematic by defining standards and it creates an incentive for its resolution by setting up procedures and funding. These multiple interventions make it possible to understand the panorama at the beginning of the 1990s:

– In general, the information disseminated by the public authorities and the incentives aimed at consumers contribute to modifying behaviour. Changes in habits in favor of recycling result in reduced volumes; it is true that the very strong economic growth of the period will have the opposite effect.

– At the time of the oil crisis, around 1975, regulations became interested in processes to save energy. Waste companies that traditionally did only collection or storage have sought more technical processes. This is how Waste Management acquired Wheelabrator, a company specializing in these processes. Other waste companies are following the same path (Ogden-Martin, American Ref-Fuel subsidiary of BFI). We also saw the arrival of a few electricians and engineers (Parsons, Bechtel). The reaffirmed interest in incineration also encourages manufacturers to develop equipment: manufacturers of industrial burners, cement manufacturers.

– By enacting standards, state and federal agencies have opened up industrial depollution markets; the same with the nuclear and toxic waste depollution program – Superfund – and the sequence is repeated with the air pollution file. This priority given by the administration to environmental clean up leads to the arrival of new entrants. This is how engineers (Bechtel, Earth Tech, Foster Wheeler, Morrison Knudsen, Parsons) and industrialists who worked for the Department of Defense (Westinghouse, General Electric) are involved in Superfund programs.

Waste management regulations

– The regulations have also played a structuring action by organizing the long-distance transport of waste including with dumpster rentals and by enacting the technical standards for landfilling which, by modifying the costs, make the different sites and the different treatment channels more or less advantageous. Should I store? Or is it better to incinerate?

– These technological constraints modify the balance between the waste companies; the rise in standards disqualifies the weakest companies. The Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) of October 1983, and in particular its subtitle B, led to the closure of a large number of landfills with ripple effects throughout the industry. Large private companies have been the most able to take advantage of this situation because they have the financial means, technological knowledge and experience of several processes.

They have the means to acquire landfills, a strategic link, either for the needs of their removal contracts, or for other collection operators who do not have the means to store.

– These public rules will even shake the largest companies which sometimes, in their period of wild growth, had taken some liberties with respect to compliance with health legislation and with respect to accounting rules. The three largest, to name a few, have been heavily condemned for not complying with the regulations: Waste Management, Laidlaw, Browning Ferris Industries. They also have problems with consumer associations and environmental movements, in Greenville and elsewhere.