Policy Assessment & Advisory Project Examples
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Carton Council Policy Impact Assessment

RSE identified and assessed various recycling-related policies and their impacts on waste diversion. Details regarding compliance were also assessed, and stakeholder perceptions were addressed. Polices identified and assessed include pay-as-you-throw, disposal bans, community provision of recycling, mandatory participation, and stated recycling rates. Best management practices for each of these policies were also identified. RSE provided recommendations, which have been used by the Carton Council to craft policy positions and steer additional recycling support to local governments.

Extended Producer Responsibility Cost-Benefit Analysis

RSE was hired by a specialty interest non-profit organization to conduct an independent analysis of the costs and benefits of EPR for packaging and printed paper, using the State of Minnesota as a case study. This project involved:

  • Developing a baseline model of Minnesota’s existing recycling infrastructure;
  • Modifying the model to show how the system could be structured under a managed system with enhanced standardization, education, and processing infrastructure;
  • Developing an example approach to how producers could fund the system under EPR, including calculating example fee rates for various printed paper and packaging categories.
  • Estimating environmental benefits from the higher recycling quantities identified by the study.

This project included an open communication and validation of assumptions through an external review process.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Recycling Deposit System

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) sought the expertise of RSE to evaluate the financial impact of a recycling refund program policy (commonly referred to as “bottle bill”) approach to beverage container recycling in Minnesota as an alternative to existing recycling programs. To complete this project, RSE:

  • Conducted a recyclable materials quantification and flow analysis to evaluate the State’s existing recycling infrastructure and materials market;
  • Conducted a detailed financial impact assessment of starting a refund system in Minnesota, drawing from data provided by Minnesota as well as several jurisdictions with bottle bills;
  • Created a generation and recovery model for beverage containers under the status quo and then modeled how beverage container flows may change if a recycling refund system were to supplement the existing recycling infrastructure;
  • Developed a beverage container recovery system cost-impact model for existing and recycling refund systems and estimated the overall impacts of the recycling refund system.

The study found that the recycling refund system described by the MPCA would result in increased recycling of approximately 107,000 tons of beverage containers, or approximately 1.9 billion container units. In addition, the quality of the collected commodities would be improved over that of the existing recycling systems.

Research & Analysis Project Examples
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Mixed Waste Processing Facility Study

RSE conducted an assessment of the recoverability of a specific commodity at six mixed waste processing facilities throughout the U.S. The facility assessments identified the variables that impact commodity quality, and identified advantages and disadvantages of mixed waste processing.  Buyers of the commodity were also interviewed to gain their insights. Findings from the study were used to help the client develop a policy position on mixed waste processing.

Manufacturing Facility Waste Assessment and End-to-End Analysis

RSE conducted a waste audit and end-to-end analysis at Estee Lauder’s Melville, NY facility. The audit included collecting a sample of the types and quantities of materials generated in different stages of production, and annualizing the quantities of each material type. Annual quantities of waste material diverted and disposed were estimated by material type and facility zone. RSE observed facility operations and identified strategies to increase diversion of materials and decrease materials management costs.

Multi-City Cartons Recovery Study

RSE conducted waste audits in five major U.S. cities that accept cartons for recycling to measure the residential generation and recycling of cartons. The study included single-family and multi-family homes. RSE carried out an analysis of several material types, and assessed demographic impacts as well as policy and programmatic impacts. The study, conducted for the Carton Council of North America, included recommendations and development of a protocol for future carton recovery audits. These results are being used by the Carton Council to promote strategies to help communities enhance their recycling programs.

Statewide Recycling Infrastructure Assessment

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) works to prevent pollution, facilitate recycling, and conserve resources in Minnesota. RSE was commissioned by the MPCA to evaluate the state’s recycling and solid waste infrastructure and investment needs. To conduct this study, RSE:

  • Analyzed recycling data for each of Minnesota’s 87 counties;
  • Analyzed data from recycling facilities, filling data gaps with facility interviews;
  • Managed a subcontractor that conducted a statewide survey of recycling facilities and site visits to key recycling processing facilities to better assess their age, condition, and ability to recycle increased quantities of materials;
  • Performed a markets assessment, which included comparing the quantities of different grades of materials collected for recycling in the state compared to in-state recycled market capacity and regional market capacity;
  • Used geographic information system (GIS) mapping to illustrate waste flows and identify opportunities for joint planning and education among counties.

The results of the study were used by MPCA to promote regional approaches to materials management through regional planning and joint action agencies, and to evaluate requests for capital grants and expansion of existing waste and recycling facilities.

Public Space Recycling Pilot Study

RSE was contracted by The American Beverage Association to manage a pilot project to implement and test public space recycling. The pilot program consisted of the installation of 126 public space recycling receptacles in several locations throughout five Palm Beach County communities. The goals of the pilot program were to:

  • Measure and improve public space recycling performance;
  • Create an effective, active, and sustainable recycling system for beverage containers generated in the public space for each host jurisdiction;
  • Create opportunities for the public to recycle their beverage containers to reduce litter;
  • Identify and demonstrate the use of functional and visually appealing recycling receptacles; and
  • Increase public awareness of the opportunities and convenience of recycling in the host jurisdiction.

The project included assessing waste management behaviors before and after implementation of the new recycling receptacles and associated communications programs. The program was successful in capturing a significant amount of used beverage containers that would otherwise have been disposed, and in decreasing litter behaviors.

Sustainability Material Management Project Examples
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Statewide Plastics Recycling Study

RSE conducted a plastic recycling study for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Metro. RSE estimated the quantity and types of plastics generated, recovered and disposed in Oregon. RSE also identified markets for various types of plastic, including recycling and energy markets. RSE then assessed commercial and pre-commercial technologies for sorting plastics into market categories either at a materials recovery facility (MRF), a plastics recycling facility (PRF), or at a reprocessor/reclaimer.  RSE then provided a recommendation of state-level waste and recycling policies with the potential to significantly increase plastics recycling in Oregon.

Plastic Film Recycling and Markets Assessment

The Closed Loop Fund (CLF) retained RSE to provide advice regarding how to target its investments to most cost effectively improve plastic film recycling rates in the United States. The focus of the study was on flexible packaging and “other” non –packaging plastic film. To complete this work, RSE developed two work papers, and is in the process of developing Work Paper #3. They include:

  • Work Paper #1 – Describes the categories of plastic film, and introduces the challenges and opportunities associated with film plastic recovery.
  • Work Paper #2 – Describes the plastic film value chain.
  • Work Paper #3 – Describes the challenges and opportunities associated with plastic film recovery in the U.S.

Circular Economy Engagement Project Examples
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U.S. Coffee Capsule Recycling Strategy

In 2009, Nespresso committed to put collection systems in place and to triple its capacity to recycle used coffee capsules to 75 percent by 2013. By the end of 2010, the global collection capacity was just above 60 percent, with over 7,000 dedicated collection points around the world. However, capacity was underrepresented in the U.S. To meet corporate targets, Nespresso USA sought the expertise of RSE to develop a voluntary recycling plan for Nespresso-branded post-consumer coffee capsules. RSE developed a customized plan for the U.S. that addressed the unique challenges in the market. RSE conducted a baseline analysis of Nespresso’s capsule returns and material flow, developed program targets, outlined a strategic expansion plan of Nespresso’s collection and processing network, and forecasted total program cost.

Government and Institutional Programs Advisory Project Examples
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State Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan

RSE team members worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Control (TDEC) to update their solid waste and materials management plan for the first time in 24 years. TDEC’s Commissioner signed the plan in April, 2015. Development of the plan included several stakeholder input sessions throughout the state and via videoconferencing, as well as surveys. The Plan established eight objectives for achieving statewide goals. Strategies and tactics were presented, with an understanding of the variability in demographics throughout Tennessee. The Plan is already serving as a guide for TDEC as they move forward developing programs and policies to help the state and its communities achieve their sustainable materials management goals and objectives.

State Strategy for Assessing and Enhancing Cartons Recovery

RSE developed a strategy and guidance document to help Tetra Pak staff assess cartons recovery within a state or MRF shed. To complete the work, RSE developed suitable numeric metrics and identified best management practices to guide the assessment. The metrics and qualitative assessments were applied to the major cities in Ohio. RSE identified policy, education and outreach, infrastructure, and MRF processing gaps in the state, and developed strategies to address those gaps. The strategies expected to have the greatest impact that could be implemented at a relatively low cost were a higher-priority. Potential partners were also identified.

Foreign Operations EPR Compliance Project Examples
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Compliance Review

RSE team members assisted a US based consumer goods manufacturer in understanding the range of EPR programs in Canada for product and product packaging. This review included an analysis of legal obligations for the company who imports product to Canada, an analysis of options available to the company and possible implications with retail partners, and the calculation of potential financial obligations based on quantification of packaging generation by province.

Compliance Reporting Support

A US based multinational tool and hardware products manufacturing company had been reporting in Canada for a number of years. However, due to mergers and changes in the company’s business, the stewardship reporting for products and packaging had not kept up to date with the current business and was at risk with the stewardship agencies. RSE provided a country-wide analysis of the company’s obligations and developed a new reporting methodology to ensure comprehensive compliance and reduce business risk. RSE is providing ongoing reporting and stewardship advice to the company.

Compliance Reporting as an Outsource

After developing an acceptable reporting methodology, RSE provides a complete annual calculation and reporting outsource service for many US based companies. This work starts with a review of the companies’ obligation by province for product and packaging stewardship and agreement with the client on go forward approach. This includes the review of the clients’ existing reporting methodology for savings and efficiencies or the development of a new acceptable methodology. This is followed by the development of preliminary obligations for review and acceptance by the clients, before the submission of the required monthly, quarterly or annual reports to the provincial stewardship agency.

Communications & Change Management Project Examples
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State Professional Recycling Courses

RSE team members helped the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) develop and annually update training materials for a recycling professional certification course. Course materials included a manual, PowerPoint presentations, and exams. RSE team members helped instruct the courses and organize guest lecturers. The course was so well received that a course for colleges and universities was also developed. RSE staff held a focus group with representatives for colleges and universities to assess their needs, and then developed the course, updated it, and instructed the course twice over a three-year period.

Best Practices Webinar Series

As part of our efforts to increase recycling in Texas, on behalf of Tetra Pak, RSE worked with the State of Texas Association of Recyclers (STAR) to organize and execute a three-part webinar series for local governments in Texas showcasing best practice examples from Texas and non Texas communities. Topics covered in the sessions included recycling infrastructure, recycling policies, and education and outreach.

Guidance Document for Assessing Recovery of Cartons

RSE developed a strategy and guidance document to help Tetra Pak staff assess cartons recovery within a state or MRF shed. To complete the work, RSE developed suitable numeric metrics and identified best management practices to guide the assessment. The guide provides a framework for identifying infrastructure, education and outreach, MRF operation, and policy gaps, and to develop and prioritize strategies to address those gaps, focusing on strategies expected to result in relatively high rates of carton recovery at a relatively low cost.

Electronics Recycling Webinar

The Consumer Electronics Association (now Consumer Technology Association, CTA) contracted with RSE to conduct a survey of South Carolina representatives concerning the availability of opportunities for consumers to recycle covered electronic devices within their jurisdictions, with a particular focus on programs operated by counties and their municipalities. The survey was disseminated using an online survey tool.

CTA subsequently contracted with RSE to develop and conduct a webinar targeting South Carolina local government officials, and to develop guidance regarding best practices.

To support CTA’s efforts, RSE:

  • Determined content to be delivered in webinar and make presenter recommendations, with input from client;
  • Made arrangement with two external speakers;
  • Promoted the webinar to target participants; and
  • Hosted and conducted the webinar.