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“There is limited transparency and comparability in waste data” – Interview with Cole Rosengren

Cole Rosengren, Waste Dive

Organized at 14:30 PM GMT on 28th Mar, 2018


Cole Rosengren, Waste Dive


Senior Editor, Waste Dive

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Pioneers & Changemakers is be Waste Wise‘s weekly interview series through which changemakers and pioneers in the fields of waste, circular economy, sustainability and sanitation will provide you access to the latest thinking, their sheer wealth of experience and inspiration.


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Mara Vasileiou summarized the interview and Nadine Cavusoglu edited it.



There is limited transparency and comparability in waste data.

  • It is very hard to acquire good data because the various local governments in the industry are not always transparent.
  • Due to different reporting requirements, it is very hard to compare states to states or even cities to cities in the US.
  • About 8-9 years ago the EPA announced the state measurement program using voluntary reporting on a free platform to be able to be on the same page. It has grown to 40 states plus D.C. and recently the first “Measurement Matters Summit” took place with the goal to advance this further and eliminate the measurement problems due to the locally driven waste regulatory system.

When it comes to the pace of change, it is hard to get a good barometer on how fast things are moving.

  • Pace of change is driven by regulations, mostly at the state level. For example, there are six states with some form of ban or state policy on having to divert organic material from landfills or waste to energy facilities and that definitely drives a lot of change and a lot of investment.
  • The industry is very adaptable yet at the same time they are the ones who kind of weigh in on the feasibility of these changes. When a small county or small town is faced with an expensive decision, they are likely to defer to the industry who also have their own interests and can drive things in their direction which make things complicated.
  • Recycling workers shortages and employment conditions are not talked about – because these are viewed as low skill and low pay jobs which can be filled with temporary employment. There’s also high turnover and high injury rates.
  • After China’s new contamination restrictions on imported recycling came into effect, a lot of facilities have slowed down their processing speeds which has probably resulted in improved working conditions and reduced injuries.

China’s recently implemented recycling import restrictions have had various effects throughout the country.

  • Waste Dive reporters developed a tool in order to track the new rules and regulations being implemented across the country as a result of China’s new policy.
  • Some of the changes being reported are: requirement to receive state permission to dispose of recycling material, rate increases, certain type of plastics being dropped from recycling and increased focus on education.
  • The waste problem is mainly local therefore mostly local reporters are covering these stories along with many other local subjects.
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