EREF Blog

Environmental Research & Education Foundation Celebrates 25 Years of Sustainable Solid Waste Research and Education

This year, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) is celebrating 25 years as a resource for solid waste research and education.

For 25 years, EREF’s mission has remained the same: to advance research and education initiatives for sustainable solid waste management practices to benefit the waste industry and communities it serves.

Click here for more information (PDF)

Improving Worker Safety: Understanding Needlesticks at Material Recovery Facilities

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) collaborated to quantify the number of needlesticks that occur at Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) with the goal to improve worker safety. This infographic outlines some key findings from this report.

To download your free copy of the Household Needles in Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) report, click here.

View the infographic (PDF)

25 Years of the EREF Annual Charitable Auction

Join EREF as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the
Annual Charitable Auction!

Support of this exciting fundraising event goes toward graduate scholarships, research grants, undergraduate internships, internal research and other educational opportunities to advance sustainable solid waste management practices!

To learn more about the Auction or how donate to this charitable event, please click here.

How Much of Our Waste is Actually Recyclable?

Since 1995, the amount of commodity recyclables in the waste stream has fallen 10 points from 53% to 43%.

A recent EREF analysis examined the waste management policies set by state/local agencies, such as recycling and diversion goals. EREF found that states across the U.S. have recycling goals ranging from 10% – 50%.

If every item that was capable of being recycled actually was recycled, could these goals be achieved? This concept, applicable to diversion in general, is known as the theoretical maximum recovery.

What Does an EREF Scholarship Mean to Our Scholars?

EREF’s Scholarship Program awards PhD and Master’s students for excellence in their solid waste education, as well as seeks to instill a continued passion for the solid waste field. Since the program’s inception, EREF has funded 72 graduate students – equating to approximately $1.43 million! The support we have received over the years has allowed us to increase our scholarship spending and fund more students.

Rich Hilliard of Oregon State University and Serena Pozza and Riley Coulthard of Yale University discuss how their EREF Scholarships have impacted them.

To learn more about supporting our Scholarship Program, please click here for a brochure. To find out how to apply for a scholarship, including our next deadline, click here.

Meet Corey Johnson-Erday: Rehrig Pacific Company Named Intern

Rehrig Pacific Company has sponsored a named EREF internship. Corey Johnson-Erday, the recipient of this award, is an intern with EREF’s Data & Policy Program and an undergraduate student at North Carolina State University. Corey’s work with EREF includes the School Cafeteria Discards Assessment Project and the State of Leachate Management and Treatment study.

Hear from Corey on the value of his EREF internship and the impact of the Rehrig Pacific Company named internship.

EREF Annual Charitable Auction at WasteExpo Funds Solid Waste Research and Educational Initiatives

Raleigh, NC (March 27, 2018) – Gear up for the Environmental Research & Education Foundation’s (EREF) Annual Charitable Auction, one of the highlights of WasteExpo, held April 24 – 25, 2018 in Las Vegas. This can’t-miss, two-day event, which has raised $18 million since its inception 24 years ago, consists of the Live and Silent Auctions, as well as a networking reception. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, sponsors and participants, last year’s event raised over $1.9 million to support EREF’s mission to fund and direct scientific research and educational initiatives.

Click here for more information (PDF)

Think Waste Wise This Holiday Season!

The holiday season is upon us, filled with family time and tasty holiday meals, and that means a substantial amount of waste.
Before hitting the grocery store for some last minute shopping or carving up that turkey this Thanksgiving, consider how much waste is produced and steps you can take to reduce it.

EREF Answers: A Deeper Look at City and State Recycling Goals

After landfilling, recycling is the most common method of waste management in the United States with 21% of municipal solid waste (MSW) processed at recycling facilities and 64% sent to landfills.* Across the U.S., cities and states are setting recycling goals to increase the recovery and beneficial reuse of materials.

Click the infographic above for more on U.S. recycling!

This America Recycles Day, learn more about these goals and U.S. recycling operations.

How are recyclables defined?

While recyclables may be defined specifically as commodity recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, metal, glass) or include activities like composting or energy recovery from waste, an upcoming report from EREF has found at least 18 different ways states are defining and reporting recycling. This variability in definition makes it difficult to quantify actual diversion rates, as there is no set standard.

Why are U.S. cities and states setting recycling goals and policies?

The most commonly cited reasons are to increase energy conservation, protect environmental quality, improve public health and better manage our resources.

How many states have recycling or diversion goals in place?

Currently, 45 states (90%) have set recycling or diversion rate goals, which range from encouraging specific, stated activities (e.g. recycling, composting) to focusing on reducing total waste being managed each year. Twenty-three of these goals are written as recycling goals.

What are the targeted recycling rates?

States’ target recycling rates range from 10% – 80% with some citing a deadline to reach the goal while others are open-ended.

Where do recyclable items go after discard?

The sorting and processing of commodity recyclables happens through a network of over 3,900 recycling facilities made up of Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and non-MRFs (i.e. smaller, low-technology facilities).

What are Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs)?

MRFs accept, sort and process recyclable material for re-use. These facilities are classified either as clean, where recyclables are already pulled from the waste before arrival at the facility, or mixed-waste, where recyclables and waste materials are collected together, then separated from the waste through manual and/or automated sorting upon arrival.

How much waste is processed through a recycling facility?

Each year, over 70 million tons of recyclables are processed. A large MRF could manage up to 200,000 tons/year.

Looking for more recycling data?

Additional recycling data can be found in EREF’s Data & Policy (D&P) reports here. Look for EREF’s report on recycling policy this winter!

Data is collected, aggregated and analyzed through the foundation’s Data & Policy Program. D&P projects serve as a resource for solid waste-related data for researchers and decision-makers within other areas such as sustainability and environmental policy. Fees charged for D&P reports are used to provide internships to college students who assist in data gathering and analysis efforts for the program.

*Found in EREF’s report “Municipal Solid Waste Management in the U.S.: 2010 & 2013.”