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Partnerships for Sustainability: A New Approach to Highway Material
A Report on the Houston Workshop

V. Summary Session

In the closing session, the two groups presented their key findings and recommendations. The recommendations were very similar and have been combined into one major list.

National Coordination and Partnerships

National organizations such as the EPA, FHWA, AASHTO, ASTSWMO, the Department of Energy, and others should meet on a regular basis to discuss mutual recycling issues, since each has a specific responsibility and interest in sustainability of recycled material usage in the highway facility. The attendees recommended that the leadership of these organizations initiate such meetings, establish a common agenda, and begin to provide an integrated, cooperative, and continuous effort through a national steering committee.

The mission of the group would be to establish more formal common interests and ensure that there is an understanding of each other's responsibilities and requirements. At a minimum, the agenda should address the issues discussed at this workshop.

The general perception is that the highway industry has taken more initiative than the environmental sector. The proposed steering committee should encourage the environmental side to increase participation/leadership.

Many attendees believe that if the agencies could show better cooperation, then it would be an incentive to various legislations not to issue mandates.

State Coordination and Partnerships

Many states do not now have formal contact between their DOTs and EPAs. It is suggested that each state jointly consider formalizing a relationship to address common issues. Many of the state EPA specialists consider the highway environment as one of the most important markets for recycled materials yet do not regularly seek out the state DOTs for input or coordination.

It was also suggested that each organization formally name a recycling coordinator within both the state DOT and the state EPA. If possible, the position should be a full-time job; as a minimum, the liaison should be the access point between the two agencies. This would also provide an excellent and effective vehicle for industry.

Each state could benefit from a formal coordinating group. It was also recommended that such a group include key local and county authorities.

Technology, Standards and Specifications

Recommendations:

  • Get a working understanding of the European policy models, along with a better understanding of the engineering and leachate evaluation efforts
  • Review and understand existing federal and state standards, but do it cooperatively

Both environmental and engineering standards vary from state to state. Many engineering standards initiate with material description. Nearly all attendees saw the eventual need for using performance-related specifications. It was agreed that for specific recycled material products, it would be possible to develop common guidelines. It was also thought that environmental standards could be developed jointly.

The traditional belief that recycled materials must meet the same standards as virgin materials in many cases eliminates them from use, even though they may potentially perform well in service. The highway community is moving towards performance-related specifications; however, it is a complicated program and will evolve over time. Another concern is the time and expense of testing.

In the interim, it would be an improvement if there were some sharing of common testing protocols, evaluation procedures, and other standards that could be used by other interested parties. They would also include leaching protocols, LCAs, etc.

Another possible issue is to identify or categorize projects and products so that others may share the list. The ASTWSMO Beneficial Use Report would be a good start. FHWA and AASHTO's NCHRP have produced research reports that focus on key material properties. They could be used to help organize such a control list.

The participants also suggested that a common research agenda could be developed that addressed both the environmental and engineering properties of recycled materials. The research agenda could also be coordinated through a university. It was thought that the RMRC would be a logical place for this to happen. It would also be beneficial to include key international research. Many public agency participants also wanted to see more research conducted by waste producers. There was no attempt to identify funding sources, however.

Marketing, Communication, and Information Sharing

Any marketing initiative must first tackle the misconceptions that plague the recycling industry. They are:

  • Recycled materials MUST be cheaper than virgin materials
  • Recycled materials MUST meet the same specifications as virgin material
  • Recycling technology changes at state borders
  • Recycling is pretty well underway and needs no further management
  • Recycling specialists in the highway sector and the environmental sector must be in conflict -- it is the nature of the business

There was general agreement among participants that a common theme and consistent message needs to be developed if a new partnership is to happen. It is important that this message be carried to senior management.

The participants could not identify many positive examples of information sharing other than the RMRC. The needs include technology sharing, key regulatory or legislative initiatives, project activities, and standards availability. They strongly recommended the following:

  • Develop a formal integrated information network for both highway engineers and environmental specialists. The network should include the private sector and key international contacts as well. Consider building the information network with the RMRC, now under contract with the FHWA.
  • Develop and share coordinated fact sheets on specific materials.
  • Develop workshop and conference agendas that address the needs of both the engineering and environmental community. Make sure that industry is invited.
  • Conduct and publicize demonstration and pilot projects on key products.
  • Establish a point of contact in both DOT and Environmental agencies - preferably as a full time job - and initiate a strong cooperative effort.

Many of the participants recommend using demonstration projects for new products and uses. They are very effective tools in promoting possible uses of materials and for linking the community together.

All Internet and electronic media should be considered to keep people connected and informed.

It was also recommended that the marketing effort include the legislative branch by asking for sponsorship of national recycling demonstration projects. These projects would be used to bring all the various entities together in a spirit of cooperation and technology sharing.

Markets

It was not very clear exactly where market development responsibilities rest. Most look to the industry. Some state EPAs have a formal mission to assist industry in locating markets. Generally, however, most agreed on the following points:

  • The industry itself does not always have good numbers on the material volume or variability. In addition, the industry sometimes does not do enough to evaluate the material as an engineered product for highway use.
  • The State EPAs independently do not have a full understanding of the potential in the highway market.
  • The State DOTs do not always understand the environmental issues behind the product nor do they have the financial, technical or time resources to fully digest the history behind these new products.

Planning

Several participants proposed that the Environmental Impact Statement required for large projects consider material usage and demands. This would allow for early consideration of recycling. It would include materials within the highway limits, their reuse in the project, and their potential removal off-site early in the project life. It would also include reusable material sources within economic transportation of the project site.

It was also proposed the materials usage be considered in an even wider time frame, possible in a systems planning mode-a more complete materials recycling plan.

Training and Education

Currently there are no known joint-training programs for highway engineers or environmental specialists. DOTs rely heavily on either National Highway Institute (NHI) training or in-house training. Most environmental specialists looked to EPA training courses, although these courses do not address the engineering properties.

It was recommended that integrated training be considered that is mutually beneficial to both highway and environmental specialists. It would start with the identification of training needs, develop options, define audience, and outline a program. This could be done within the existing framework of FHWA's NHI, EPA's training, or a university program like the RMRC.

Closing Panel Discussion

Upon completion of both the state and national groups' presentations, the workshop concluded with the reconvening of several of the panel member. Their closing thoughts are summarized below:

Comments from Dr. Taylor Eighmy, Director, Recycled Materials Resource Center
Dr. Eighmy spoke about how the RMRC is currently addressing many of the raised action items through its research and outreach mission. One additional area of activity might be in the area of training individuals who could then serve as trainers for the National Highway Institute, AASHTO, ASTSWMO, etc.

Comments from Ms. Shari Schaftlein, Deputy Director, Environmental Services, WA DOT
Ms. Schaftlein was very positive towards the recommendations. She explained that the many State environmental officers are extremely busy with managing the NEPA issues. She stated that her goal would be to create more positions of dedicated coordinators in more state DOTs. She believes the AASHTO Standing Committee on the Environment could be a messenger to the DOT chief executives. She also stated there is a need to create greater involvement from state EPAs.

Comments from Ms. Katherine Holtz, Director, Materials Section, TX DOT
Ms. Holtz supports an approach that links national specifications and test methods for both the highway and environmental communities. She noted that Dr. Eighmy has already surveyed the U.S. to prioritize the development of specification for recycled materials. She concluded that her primary task would be to see if the SOM could work with the SOE and with ASTSWMO to put it all together.

Comments from Mr. Byron Lord, Implementation Director, FHWA
Mr. Lord stated that his primary task now is to determine how to carry on the partnerships that were initiated at the workshop, and make them self-sustaining. He noted that nearly every item in the list will require a higher, more visible profile and with strong leadership.

Comments from Mr. Dale Thompson, ASTSWMO Beneficial Use Committee
Mr. Thompson agreed with Ms. Shaftlein's comments. He stated that his responsibility at this point is to take these conclusions back to ASTSWMO and show that these are opportunities to be seized.

Comments from Ms. Jean Schwab, Office of Solid Waste, EPA
Ms. Schwab said that she would like to work with Dr. Eighmy and his team to promote collaborate efforts. She stated that she would also like to work more closely with Mr. Lord to provide support at the national level. She believes that state DOTs connecting state EPAs is a great beginning.

In addition, the presenters from Europe thanked the participants and complimented them for the high level of cooperation they demonstrated.

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Updated: 04/07/2011
 

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