Cities and Counties Address More Solid Waste Issues; Pot on the Rise

We are data nerds and enjoy reading reports on local government, so we conducted the first Waste Alert Report in 2016. It was a crazy pursuit, but it led to interesting analysis and validation of just how significantly local government activity impacts the solid waste and recycling industry. To our knowledge, the 2016 Waste Alert Report was the first comprehensive report of its kind. Naturally, we were curious to see how the first quarter of 2017 shaped up, so we wrote the Waste Alert 2017-Q1 Report.

Waste Alert analyzed 1,699 City Council, County Commission, borough assembly, and solid waste committee agendas and minutes during the first quarter of 2017. The sample arises from actual monitoring reports for Waste Alert clients, as well as from sample reports. The cities and counties in our sample are located in 16 states, and our sample ranges from a small town with a population of 1,000 to a large metropolitan area with a population of over 1,000,000, providing a unique snapshot of local government activity.

Our analysis of city and county activity on solid waste and recycling issues in the first quarter of 2017 shows a significant uptick from 2016. In 2016, 19% of City Council or County Commission meetings addressed solid waste-related issues; in the first quarter of 2017, 26% of meetings did. This represents a 37% increase in frequency of local governments addressing solid waste.

What drove this increase? There are likely many factors at work. However, what is clear is that, at least in our sample, the national hot topics of zero waste (two), organics and food waste (four), plastic bag bans (one), and landfill leachate (two) did not lead the charge.

Instead, the nuts and bolts of solid waste management appear to be on the upswing, with the rate of solid waste contracts issues and discussions increasing from 7% in 2016 to 12% in 2017 Q1. This increase may be seasonal, as cities and counties in our sample tend to evaluate, renew, and alter solid waste contracts at the beginning of the calendar year.

The legalization of recreational and/or medical use of marijuana in a number of states (including Waste Alert’s home state of Oregon) has introduced the issue of what to do with waste from marijuana dispensaries and cultivation operations. In 2017 Q1, three jurisdictions in our sample were talking about marijuana waste. As more states legalize marijuana use, we can expect associated waste issues to be a bigger topic of conversation in the waste industry in the coming years.

Want to know more? Download your copy of the Waste Alert 2017 Report to see for yourself what the numbers say.

By Jeff Eager, Waste Alert Founder/CEO

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