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Land, Waste and Emergency Management Innovations

Year 2008 Innovations Pilots

OSWER Innovation Projects
Link for web page that will let you see pilot projects by region
Pilot Years

2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

2007 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002

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Project Highlights
  • Established a large network of stakeholders for long term collaborative partnership opportunities that includes participants from EPA Region 5 and other states such as Alaska and Florida.
  • Developed two webinar series focused on using recycled materials. “Green Highways” explored the reuse of materials such as foundry sand, coal ash and construction/demolition materials in the construction of public roads. “Compost Use for Stormwater and Erosion Control” examined the varied uses of compost as a stormwater management tool.
  • Presented webinars to more than 700 participants nationwide, approximately one half to two-thirds of whom were motivated to try the best management practices (BMPs) shared.

Establishing a Network of Stakeholders to Promote Innovative Green Material Recycling Concepts in EPA Region 5

Sponsor: EPA Region 5 - Fiscal Year: 2008

Partners: EPA Region 5 states; local public-works programs; university researchers; Federal Highway Administration; EPA Region 3; EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response; EPA Office of Water; and representatives of composters, industrial byproduct generators, end users, and contractors

Challenge: In the U.S. alone, material resources used and consumed per year have grown from 161 million metric tons in 1900 to 2.8 billion metric tons in 1995 – the equivalent of over 10 tons per person. To encourage material reuse instead of disposal, innovative green building and sustainable development concepts continued to emerge, but were not being adopted by relevant stakeholder groups in EPA Region 5.

Opportunity: Project partners recognized a collaborative network of stakeholders needed to be developed that would encourage the formation of partnerships within the region and provide stakeholders with the opportunity to learn about innovative green building and sustainable development concepts that could then lead to their adoption through demonstration projects. The steps taken to develop the collaborative network would be transferrable across EPA programs, regions, industries and geographic areas with the end result of the increased use of recycled materials.

Approach: EPA Region 5 collaborated and networked through outreach events (e.g., webinars and conferences) focused on innovative green building and sustainable development with its state partners (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin); local public works programs; university researchers; the Federal Highway Administration; EPA Region 3; EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response; EPA Office of Water; and several composters, industrial byproduct generators, end users and contractors. The outreach events brought together key stakeholders in each target group in positions to adopt and implement the innovative green building and sustainable development concepts shared. These stakeholders formed the foundation for a network of potential long term partners. EPA Region 5 documented proposed action items, comments and demonstration plans communicated at the outreach events and shared them with others working to accomplish similar goals.

Project Updates: Through the partnerships established and the ready-made list of interested stakeholders cultivated through the webinars, EPA Region 5 has continued to promote the compost BMPs and the use of recycled materials in road construction to the states. Some states such as Wisconsin are currently working to get approvals for these techniques from their stormwater management programs and increase their use of recycled material in road construction. The partnership between EPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) has also been strengthened as DOT has invited EPA staff to present on Green Highways concepts at several DOT meetings, and DOT is collaborating with EPA Region 5’s Green Building Program staff on "Green Streets" workshops and webinars. The success of the collaborative effort also inspired a comprehensive update of the Region 5 Office of Solid Waste (OSW) website, which now features information on composting, purchasing specifications, and links to other relevant websites.

Additional Information:

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Project Highlights
  • Piloted the green transit approach, which led to the development of national transit sustainability standards
  • Adopted sustainability practices in BART’s facility planning, construction and operations
  • Piloted parking garage energy lighting power reduction system to cut energy use by 25 percent (955,190 kWh/yr)
  • Created 530 bicycle parking spaces
  • Diverted approximately 6,450 tons of waste from landfills and avoided $645,000 in disposal costs
  • Saved 876,000 gallons of potable water by recycling at BART vehicle washing facilities

Green Building Transit Leadership Project - BART District

Sponsor: EPA Region 9 - Fiscal Year: 2008

Partners: Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) worked with EPA, local government, transit agencies, and the wider transit community (through publications, presentations, and meetings) to publicize and share the results of the demonstration project.

Challenge: Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is one of the largest light rail transit agencies in the United States, consisting of 104 miles of track and owns and operates 43 stations and a variety of other facilities (e.g., parking garages, maintenance facilities). Each year, BART spends roughly $1 billion on new construction, renovations and maintenance, which could be reduced with the implementation of sustainability practices. Green highway and building initiatives were well underway in California, but little had been done toward sustainable transit beyond establishing standard recycling programs when this project started in 2002.

Opportunity: To expand the scope of sustainable transit, green practices needed to be identified and implemented by transit authorities on a local and national scale. To further promote green transit practices, sustainable design guidelines also needed to be developed. Creating and promoting green building and greenhouse gas reduction plans for transit stations and facilities can help reduce waste, conserve energy, reduce criteria pollutants, develop public recycling areas, incorporate recycled-content building materials, and expand public transit ridership.

Approach: An initial review of current BART Facilities Standards documents led to the development of BART’s Sustainable Design Guidelines based on a wide range of existing measures, including the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating System and U.S. General Services Administration Green Building Guidelines. The pilot developed, implemented and documented short and long-term sustainable transit design, procurement, and construction practices through six specific objectives. Additionally, BART and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) worked together to develop sustainability guidelines that are broadly applicable across the transit sector and organized a National Working Group for Sustainability in Transit.

Project Updates: The Sustainable Transit Practices Compendium and Transit Sustainability Guidelines are already being used by numerous transit agencies. In March 2011, a new Sustainable Transit Standard was recently approved by APTA and online case studies are being added. Project partners have developed detailed guidance and transit-specific case studies and presented collective results through APTA, EPA, and leading sustainability conferences and webinars. BART is also documenting three transit sustainability case studies at major station renovation sites. EPA Region 9’s sustainability work has expanded to include high speed rail and is currently partnering with the Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority to ensure the 800-mile California high-speed rail system project incorporates sustainable practices.

Additional Information:

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Project Highlights
  • Developed greener cleanup standard goals which served as the foundation for EPA’s Principles for Greener Cleanups and a framework for creating the guide.
  • Developing the draft Guide for Greener and More Sustainable Site Assessment and Cleanup in partnership with ASTM International.

Green Cleanup Standard

Sponsor: EPA Region 3 - Fiscal Year: 2008

Partners: Input from EPA Region 3, EPA Region 5, EPA Region 9, EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Sustainable Remediation Forum, National Brownfield Associations, RCRA Corrective Action Project, Cherokee Developers

Challenge: EPA estimates that approximately 297,000 Superfund, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action, Brownfields, and other federal and state cleanup program sites will need to be cleaned up between now and 2033. The cleanup of contaminated properties using common practices can consume significant energy, water and natural resources. For example, EPA estimates that the cleanup of just the Superfund sites could consume an average of 631,000 MWh annually, a quantity equivalent to the annual electricity consumption in about 55,000 homes or annual greenhouse gas emissions from over 85,000 passenger vehicles.

Opportunity: EPA, several states and organizations have been exploring ways to minimize greenhouse gases and resource use during site cleanup. While these efforts may have resulted in reducing the impact of cleanup activities at a specific site, the green approaches used differed significantly and were not easily scalable or applicable to all federal and state cleanup programs. The development of a standard guide would provide a consistent, transparent and scalable framework that the entire regulated community could implement to meet environmental requirements sustainably.

Approach: EPA convened a federal and state cross-program workgroup to develop the framework for a voluntary standard guide that could be used to increase the use of greener site assessment and cleanup approaches by regulatory agencies, responsible parties, developers and communities. The workgroup then partnered with ASTM International to develop the greener cleanup standard, since it is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards.

Project Updates: The final guide is currently under development by ASTM International and is expected to be published as early as 2013. It is designed to maximize the short and long-term environmental, economic and social goals considered under various federal and state cleanup programs, while continuing to protect human health and the environment.

Additional Information:

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Green Gas Stations

Sponsor: EPA Region 7 - Fiscal Year: 2008

Partners: EPA Region 6, EPA Region 7, EPA Region 9, Petroleum Marketers Association, U.S. Department of Energy, Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association of Kansas, Zarco Earth Friendly Fuels

Overview: EPA Region 7 participated in a "Green Gas Station" project at Zarco Earth Friendly Fuels in Lawrence, KS. In partnership with the station owner, state offices, commodity groups, renewable-energy consultants, and the University of Kansas, EPA tested the application of environmental stewardship and innovation in energy to the gas-station sector. This project further developed the framework of the gas-station program, piloted the concept in other regions, and measured the environmental and economic results of the projects.

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Green Remediation Tech Support at Contaminated Sites

Sponsor: EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery - Fiscal Year: 2008

Partners: EPA Offices of Solid Waste, Brownfields and Land Revitalization, Underground Storage Tanks, Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse, Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation

Overview:This project provided direct technical site support for green remediation best practices that include "go-no-go" decision making and low-cost/no-cost opportunities. Case Studies were developed for each project. The focus of support in the early stages of green remediation was on coupling renewable energy sources with energy-intensive treatment systems.

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Project Highlights
  • Ace Hardware implemented a retail collection program for spent fluorescent lights and mercury thermostats at more than 25 of its stores in Montana, South Dakota, and Utah from May to December 2008.
  • Home Depot launched a consumer compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) recycling program in 2008 at all 1,973 U.S. locations.

Product Stewardship Institute - Research to Support National Dialog for Fluorescent Lighting

Sponsor: EPA Region 8 - Fiscal Year: 2008

Partners (all contributed funds): EPA Region 5, EPA Region 8, EPA Region 10, Washington Department of Ecology

Challenge:More than half a billion fluorescent lamps are sold annually in the United States. When disposed of in the trash, crushed, incinerated, or otherwise broken, spent lamps can cause mercury, a potent neurotoxin, to be released into the environment. Although the recycling of these lamps is encouraged by EPA and required in some states and counties, a large number of spent lamps were still entering the waste stream.  

Opportunity: In order to minimize the amount of spent fluorescent lamps entering the waste stream, more retail-based recycling programs were needed. This type of convenience would encourage consumers to return used lamps to local retailers for recycling, and would keep mercury out of landfills and incinerators.

Approach: The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), in conjunction with EPA and other pilot partners, contacted over 50 retailers around the country that were collecting fluorescent lamps for recycling (e.g., grocery, pharmacy/convenience, hardware, and "big box") and completed 20 interviews. The interview questions focused on the mechanics of financing for retail collection of fluorescent lamps and in-store staff experiences with implementation. Based on the interviews and past experience with Women’s Voices for the Earth implementing a pilot program with Ace Hardware stores in Region 8, PSI developed "7 Steps to Starting a Fluorescent Lamp Collection Program," which describes why and how a program is set up. Additionally, PSI's Financing Workgroup prepared the "Overview of Financing Options" report, which describes the pros and cons of different types of financing programs for the collection and recycling of consumer sector fluorescent lamps.

Project Updates: PSI continues to promote the collection of fluorescent lamps or take back programs by working with recycling coordinators from existing retailer programs. PSI also continues to work with state governments and environmental groups by providing a forum for discussions to help introduce and implement state legislation for extended producer responsibility laws for fluorescent lighting. In 2009, Maine became the first state in the nation to pass a law to help reduce mercury pollution by requiring compact fluorescent light bulb manufacturers to share the costs and responsibility for recycling their mercury-containing bulbs. Similar legislation has been introduced in California, Washington, Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon and Minnesota.

Additional Information:

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Project Highlights
  • The tags were electronically read at different distances (up to 70 feet away) and different speeds up to 25 mph and tested on both steel and plastic 55-gallon drums and corrugated boxes.
  • Received strong and sustained support from U.S., Mexican and Canadian regulatory agencies.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tracking of Hazardous Materials across International Borders

Sponsor: EPA Region 6 - Fiscal Year: 2008

Partners: EPA Border Coordination partnerships included the Office of International Affairs, EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Office of Air and Radiation, EPA Region 6, U.S.-Mexico Border Program Outreach, EPA Region 9, and Waste Management Division. Interested federal agencies included the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Santa Teresa, New Mexico Port of Entry). Participating agencies included the New Mexico Border Authority and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality - Border Affairs. New Mexico State University provided field personnel as well as graduate students to write verification reports.

Challenge: An estimated 43.3 million pounds of hazardous waste generated at U.S.-owned facilities in Mexico returns to the U.S. every year. Tracking its movement across international borders is complex – the sheer volume of cross-border truck shipments is vast, Mexico and the U.S. define hazardous waste differently, and coordination among numerous U.S. and Mexican agencies is challenging. To address these challenges, the U.S. needed a way to track hazardous waste more closely at the individual drum level.

Opportunity: Innovative technology, such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), offers the potential to close the major data gaps in tracking imported hazardous waste shipments. RFID is an automated data capture technology that can be used to electronically identify, track and store information about tagged items. RFID technology would not only allow hazardous waste material from Mexico to be safely transported and disposed of, it would also provide real-time location data to emergency responders if needed.

Approach: EPA partnered with Mexican authorities and hazmat trucking vendors to support the testing of RFID technology to track individual hazardous waste drums across the U.S./Mexico border. RFID vendors provided the software, hardware and technical expertise to support the testing, and hazmat shipping firms supplied the trucks and drivers. Conducted over a two-day period, the testing simulated the process of receiving and transporting waste through the use of external tracking tags and in-truck readers. Testing also involved utilizing GPS tracking, RFID Identification and panic button alerts for dangerous or threatening situations and route deviation alerts. Data was analyzed and evaluated to determine accuracy and help identify pros and cons of the tracking devices.

Project Updates: EPA Region 6 will develop outreach materials to inform local, state and regional officials about the verified technologies and applicability to transportation-related releases of chemicals/materials to water, air and soil. This project successfully demonstrated that RFID technology can be used to track individual hazardous waste drums; however, further progress has been slowed due to the faltering economy. U.S. Department of Homeland Security has also expressed interest in the use of this technology to provide critical data to emergency responders. Additionally, commercial sectors and regulatory agencies have expressed interest in the system’s transport deviation alerts and panic button which can allow for advanced notice of a dangerous or threatening situation.

Additional Information:

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Project Highlights
  • Utilized OSWER Innovation funding as seed money to leverage over $100,000 additional funds.
  • Designed the Toolkit to be a nationally transferrable product that can be utilized and customized by local governments across the U.S by adding topic areas of specific interest to their local circumstances in the assessment section.
  • Hosted the first informational webinar in March 2011, which garnered interest from more than 500 people across the country.

Sustainable Design and Green Building Toolkit for Local Governments

Sponsor: EPA Region 4 - Fiscal Year: 2008

Partners: City of Roswell, Georgia; USGBC; International Code Council; Development Center for Appropriate Technology; Tennessee Valley Authority; Upstate Forever; U.S. Department of Energy; Building Codes Assistance Project; Georgia Department of Natural Resources. See the Toolkit’s acknowledgements page (PDF) ( 92 pp, 15MB, about PDF) for a complete listing.

Challenge: It should be easier, not harder, for green buildings to meet code and ordinance requirements and receive permits. And yet, green builders find themselves having to prove that the innovative approaches they utilize are equivalent to or better than standard construction practices. Obtaining variances to local codes and ordinances requires more time, work and money than constructing buildings that are not green but easily conform to the permitting process. For example, using reclaimed lumber can be problematic to approve because it is not structurally rated and tested as a manufactured material. Along with financing green building technologies, this obstacle has been identified by the development community, architects, engineers, academia and even municipalities as a primary reason why more developers have not adopted green building practices.

Opportunity: EPA developed the first cross-media (i.e., air, water, land and materials) Sustainable Design and Green Building Toolkit that helps local governments comprehensively assess and adjust their ordinances by environmental objective to better reflect local sustainability priorities. It also supplies a framework for making local regulatory changes, making it easier for developers to undertake green building projects.

Approach: Representatives from the City of Roswell, GA piloted the draft versions of the Toolkit and gave critical input into the development of the final Toolkit. The final version was published in June 2010 and includes an assessment tool, a resource guide, an action plan for implementing the necessary regulatory and permitting changes, and an interactive Excel spreadsheet version of the assessment tool.

Project Updates: In Spring/Summer 2011, the Toolkit will be beta-tested with additional communities from across the U.S. to fill in any evaluation gaps. Through 2010 OSWER Innovation funds, the Toolkit will be converted into an interactive website that allows users to complete the assessment online, link to relevant resources, and generate results reports for elected officials. The Toolkit has also spurred additional and complementary work, including a 2011 project conducted by the Southeast Smart Growth Network via grant funding from Region 4’s RCRA Division and Office of Pollution Prevention and Innovation. The Network Partners will use the assessment portion to analyze local government green building ordinances and incentive programs in five southeastern states: Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Florida.

Additional Information:

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Sustainable Products Movement: Opportunity to Advance Materials Management Principles for Resource Conservation and GHG benefits

Sponsor: Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery - Fiscal Year: 2008, 2009

Partners: Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT)

Project Highlights
  • Collaborated with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop a framework for differentiating greener products and identifying and mapping significant linkages among "hot spots," life cycle impacts, and attributes of green products.
  • Developed a Green Pledge for companies and organizations to commit to supporting the manufacture and sale of "Environmentally Preferable Products."
  • Developed sustainable purchasing training modules and a glossary of commonly used terms and agreed-upon definitions currently in use in the green marketplace.
  • Developed a set of preferred practices for building and maintaining credibility for different categories of actors involved in environmental marketing claims and eco-labels.

Challenge: Consumers need clear information to make rational environmental product choices. Many products claim to be "green," but products are not always as green as they claim. While consumers show willingness to buy green, the number of green or sustainable standards and labels for products has grown exponentially. According to Ecolabel Index, there are 435 ecolabels in 197 countries, and 25 industry sectors.

Opportunity: To address inconsistent green product life cycle standards and other challenges (e.g., establishing definitions, lack of publicly available data, lack of authoritative body to shape guidance), there was a need for a multi-stakeholder sustainable products collaboration to provide guidance on the development of sustainable products standards. These standards, correctly structured, have the potential to promote major advances in resource conservation, such as efficient materials use, fewer toxic inputs, and redeployment of wasted products and materials back into the economic/product stream (all with associated greenhouse gas emissions reductions).

Approach: In partnership with the Keystone Center—a nonprofit experienced in convening groups to address environmental, energy, and public health issues—EPA established the Green Products Roundtable (GPR), a national dialogue on green product life cycle standards. The GPR brought together manufacturers (e.g., Weyerhauser, Proctor and Gamble, SC Johnson), retailers (e.g., Walmart, Best Buy and Office Depot), purchasers, distributers, eco-labelers (e.g., Green Seal and EcoLogo), and other experts and thought leaders (e.g., the Sustainability Consortium), which had not been done before in the context of providing leadership for sustainable products standards. The GPR collaborated on identifying tools and strategies to help public and private institutional purchasers make informed environmental decisions about the products they buy.

Project Updates: In September 2010, EPA published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting stakeholder input regarding the Agency’s role under the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 in regulating or encouraging the "green" or sustainable products movement. Some of the areas contemplated by EPA for regulation or other action include: evaluating the multiple impacts of products across their entire life cycle, establishing the scientific foundation for standards and/or eco-labels, and verifying that products meet standards. The GPR is developing an independent organization to serve as a comprehensive North American entity to help guide market actors on the legitimacy of a broad range of environmental marketing declarations, including relevant standards, eco-labels, and claims regarding a product&rsquos environmental performance.

Additional Information:

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Taking the NEWMOA Beneficial Use Determinations (BUDs) Database Nationwide

Sponsor: EPA Region 1 - Fiscal Year: 2008

Partners: Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association, EPA Region 1, EPA Region 5, EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, States

Overview: The NEWMOA Beneficial Use Determination (BUD) Database was completed in the Spring of 2008 and is an online searchable database of more than 600 BUDs issued by the 13 participating states. It can be searched by waste, use, state, type of BUD, company name, and SIC code and provides information on which states have approved that waste/use, state contacts, issuance dates, applicant companies, quantities of materials, whether the BUDs are ongoing reuse or a one-time reuse, analytical-test requirements, and limitations on use. Additional financial support facilitates the establishment of the database as a central repository for information about state-issued BUDs by fully populating the BUDs Database for the 13 participating states and making the database national.

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