GRN Recycle Talk FAQ

Date: Mon Nov 25 1996 - 10:22:00 EST

Date: Mon, 25 Nov 96 15:22 WET
Subject: Re: Waste Management Industry Overview (Ted Biejewski)

November 25, 1996

Dear Ted Biejewski,

You ask some very good questions, ones which I can only contribute to answering in this forum. I will address Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) which refers in the US to nonhazardous waste such as is generated typically by a city, a town, a retail or wholesale store, and typically by the office operations of companies. Hazardous waste and industrial waste are two entirely different universes which require entirely different answers.
1. Who are the key players?

In the MSW management industry, landfill operators, MSW waste-to-energy plant owners and operators, Municipal recycling programs, municipal solid waste and recycling contractors, composting companies or the Municipality s compost operation (if any) are the front line key players for managing waste.
For generating this waste, the key players are the public, organized usually by governmental subdivision at some level (City, town, village, county, etc.), commercial operations, industries (which produce preconsumer, nonhazardous wastes: e.g. sawdust in lumber mills or mill ends in paper manufacturing or metal fragments in metal finishing industries) are the largest key players.
But for recycling operations, the key players are sources of finance capital, willing to invest in recycling; sources of finance capital for landfills and waste-to-energy operations are much more prevalent, easier to find, and frequently are the generators themselves contracting with a waste hauler or a recycler, a remanufacturing facility or a demanufacturing facility. Large waste management companies are often both key players in landfilling and in recycling. In the US a firm like WMX or Laidloaw, Browning Ferris Industries or Prinz Recycling frequently mix waste management options in their portfolio.
Then, in the realm of reuse or remanufacturing of waste, key players are entrepreneurial ventures, subsidiaries of large corporations, R D operations at universities and at government agencies, etc. who e.g. find technologies that can reuse or recycle shaped recyclable materials for reapplication.
In the US, State and Federal government Waste Management Departments are also key players to teach, to set quality standards, to set up incentive programs, to organize and implement social policy, and to attract the other key players to working with one another in every geographic and human activity sphere.

2. What kind of inter-firm cooperation exists between competitors and customers?

I m not sure I understand what you mean here. If you mean that competing means of waste management have relationships, that is one thing; for example, infrequently a waste-to-energy plant will divert recyclables to a Materials Recovery Facility before incinerating wastes. Some must do this to reduce toxic materials. Some voluntarily do this to make money from the recyclables as well as from the waste-to-energy incineration. In this instance, it will be far more common to have the same company operate both the waste-to-energy and recycling operations (Wheelabrator is an example of a large waste-to-energy firm, now vertically integrated into WMX Corp., precisely to mix landfilling, waste-to-energy, recycling, and source reduction together into a business portfolio, and customer service offerings).
If you are asking about the typical means of establishing a relationship between a waste management company and a solid waste generator, this is typically done contractually, sometimes with subcontractors, sometimes not, with the recycling end enriching both the customer and the firm. Enriching is here used advisedly, since no one gets rich off of recycling alone.
There as many variations on these themes as there are in other industries.
Perhaps you should narrow your question.

3.What s been the evolution of the industry?

In the 1970s a few hesitant efforts at recycling and composting first sought to take some of the landfilling universe s hegemony away, but failed. As WTE technology had its air pollution, toxics problems, and ash problems addressed, they claimed anywhere from 14-65% of the landfilling market between 1975 and 1989. Recycling took off due to societal and materials management, landfill space closure, and regulatory pressures in the period 1989-present. The institution of a Waste Management hierarchy got everyone thinking about waste reduction in 1989, but not till very recently with the institution of such government initiatives as WasteWi$e and the German Green Dot system and packaging initiatives, did anyone really do very much with source (waste) reduction. Composting still has a long way to go to figure appreciably in the industry mix, although it is appreciable in some sectors such as sludge composting and on-farm agricultural composting.
There are many more slightly less important details that I m leaving out (but only slightly less important). This is a thumbnail sketch.

4. What are the customers needs?

Depends on which customers. Recycling remanufacturers need a steady source of supply. WTE operators also need a steady source of materials to burn, in as toxic-free a form as is possible with current sortation technologies. Landfill operators and owners need up to code double-lined landfill liners, gas management, leachate management, and other systems in place.
Waste generators need contracts that will not need rewriting each time the business cycle for recyclables starts it cyclic decline. Recycling industries need financing on realistic terms. Financiers need quality assurance, a mature industry, and something better than a good idea and a business plan.
The public needs a mix of all waste management technologies suitable for their geography, demography, and market development initiatives.

5. How is the market segmented?

About 50% of US waste management economic attention still is poured into landfills. Everyone else makes up different percentages of the remaining 50% depending upon where they live.

I invite you to refine these questions and re-ask them with greater specificity.

Copyright © Global Recycling Network,