News & Resources
06/5/14

Why Develop a Partnership with your Hazardous Waste Services Provider

This is Part 2 of a 2-part interview with Jonathan Eckles, certified hazardous materials manager (CHMM) and past president of the Gateway Society of Hazardous Materials Managers. In a recent interview, Jonathan discussed the importance of developing a collaborative partnership with your hazardous waste services provider. He has managed waste disposal for various Fortune 500 chemical companies for more than 15 years, and was a technical and regulatory resource for operations of a private incinerator for nearly five years.

"I've worked with many disposal companies over the years and had my share of good and bad experiences with each of them.  I would rank Veolia among the top three companies that own their own treatment facilities.  Most of the times I've dealt directly with Veolia, I have been impressed with the knowledge of their field teams.  They are well trained, and they had good experience.  Their crews acted more like an integral part of my team than an outside contractor.  I always appreciated that aspect of Veolia whenever I dealt with them."

COST VERSUS ENVIRONMENTAL LIABILITY

“It's a bit of a balancing act. There are obviously companies out there that are more expensive with than others. Sometimes the cheapest company isn't the best deal, and sometimes the most expensive company isn't the best deal. You can't always say, 'We're safe because we are using the most expensive company in the business. We're paying the highest price.' That’s not always the best strategy."

“Certainly if your broker comes to you and tells you he can get rid of the waste for $0.10 per pound, and the companies you're familiar with are charging $0.50 per pound, then you need to do a lot of research on where that material is going to go. Is it going to a place you trust, or that you are familiar with? Are they brokering it off to another party and making it too hard for you to track where it's going? It can be like a shell game."

“Some lawyers claim that once your waste is mixed in a big tank and fuel blended with other waste steams that you may no longer be liable for it because it takes on a new identity. Other lawyers have said that's not necessarily the case, and you're liable for whatever percentage you contributed to that tank of waste. So you need to be really careful."

“The environmental liability, unfortunately, is a cost that is often over the horizon and hard to see. It's easy to be lulled into the siren song of saving money in the present. Depending on the waste stream, you can save $100,000 a year by going with a cheaper contractor, but if you don't know where your waste is going, how do you know what your lifetime costs are going to be on that waste? That's one of the reasons that many companies prefer incineration. As long as you know it's being incinerated, there is a lot less liability associated with it. You still own part of the ash coming out the other end, and you still need to be diligent in selecting an incinerator. You always have to weigh the long-term liability with the short-term costs of doing business with different companies.”

CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES

“The other challenge is to find creative ways to reduce the amount of waste you're generating. Beneficial reuse is a good option - finding somebody who can use your material as a product instead of as waste, so it ends up being a win-win for both parties. You have to be cognizant of where the material is going and how it is going to be used. You have to make sure it's being re-used within the law, and keep an eye on interpretations by the EPA that support what use you're targeting for the material. There have been recent changes in interpretations by the EPA where some longstanding beneficial reuse options are now being called into question because of legal changes."

“For example, there is a mercury export ban that took effect January 1, 2013, and it's still unclear how it will affect recycling fluorescent bulbs and other waste. A lot of recycling facilities create elemental mercury, and without an outlet for that, it's unclear exactly how that material will be disposed of, and how it will affect disposal costs and risks going forward."

“The economy can affect how waste is used, too. A lot of used solvents were ending up in the cement kiln industry, before the recession, which started in 2008. Construction really slowed down, and without the demand for cement, a lot of the cement kilns became more selective about the fuels they purchased or used to fire their kilns. As a result, a lot of material has shifted from the cement kiln business and to other operations, such as regular incineration or other beneficial reuse opportunities.”

OPTIONS TO CONSIDER

“As companies try to reduce their waste volumes, a lot of these facilities are looking more toward single-source disposal options, where one company has the resources and the knowledge to look at the waste coming out of a facility, segment it, and dispose of it in different ways. In the old days you would call up the disposal facility and say, 'I've got a truckload of drums, come pick them up.' Now, the process is more knowledge based. The disposal facility comes and asks, 'What do you have?' They evaluate it for various options and look for an economical option that works for everyone. The approach of 'throw everything into the incinerator' isn’t being followed any longer. There are more nuances and it's a more measured approach, focusing on 'value added' more than a cost per pound disposal basis."

“Once again, it comes back to knowing your disposal contractor. Sometimes you're asking the disposal facility to work itself out of business by finding unique solutions to your problems. The disposal facility is taking on a different personality when they do that. It's no longer a mission to feed the beast, or the incinerator. It's more of a mission to develop a relationship and to become a solution provider.”


EXPERIENCE WITH VEOLIA

“I’ve worked with many disposal companies over the years and have had my share of good and bad experiences with all of them. I would rank Veolia among the top three companies that own their own treatment facilities. Most of the times I’ve dealt directly with Veolia, I have been impressed with the knowledge of their field teams. They are well trained, and they had good experience. Their crews acted more like an integral part of my team than an outside contractor. I always appreciated that aspect of Veolia whenever I dealt with them.”