Getting to Zero Waste

We held our second Green, Eggs & Bam forum on August 30 with the topic of “Getting to Zero Waste”. It was another wildly successful edition of the forum – the room was full of diverse, energetic, and knowledgable attendees, our speakers did a great job (save for your truly), and we explored some really important issues in Omaha’s waste management systems: the Hefty EnergyBag program and the City of Omaha’s future waste management contract.

I started the morning by describing what Zero Waste really means, how prevalent such efforts are becoming both in Omaha and around the U.S., and extolling the benefits of diverting materials from the waste stream. I then walked through the four areas where efforts should be focused and provided several examples for each area. They include:

  1. Measure. Ensure you know how much material you’re managing and what that material consists of.
  2. Source. Seek ways to reduce how much material you’re bringing into the organization – stop it at the source.
  3. Process. Tighten up the internal processes used to collect materials – bins, signage, etc.
  4. Outgoing. Finally, examine the operational plan for when and how materials are taken from your site.

We then turned the microphone over to Dale Gubbels, president of Firstar Fiber, who is a participating stakeholder and sponsor of the Hefty EnergyBag program. The EnergyBag program only currently exists in Omaha to collect and eventually incinerate several materials (mostly soft plastics) that aren’t currently accepted in Omaha’s (or most) recycling programs. Dale discussed several aspects of the program, including how it came to be, what its goals are, and some of the challenges and opportunities it presents. On September 20 we released a white paper announcing our cautious support for the program. Long story short, it’s not a black-or-white issue. It’s very complicated. But we really examined the program and its merits before arriving at our conclusion.

Finally, Jim Cavanaugh and Michael O’Hara offered their perspective on the City of Omaha’s forthcoming new waste collection contract. Most notably, they discussed their study that examined whether or not the City should be commingling yard waste with regular trash and sending it to the landfill. It’s yet another complicated issue that requires thoughtful study and consideration.

The full Green, Eggs & Bam video is below. If you have 82 minutes, we think you’ll find it to be well worth your time. The feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive, which means we’ll be doing our third Green, Eggs & Bam in early 2018. The topic: transportation demand management programs. Huzzah!

Onward and upward.

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