Waste & Recycling


How to Manage Your Diversion Data

Municipal administrators, waste managers and recycling coordinators are doing a great job diverting more and more materials from landfill. The pressure of diminishing landfill capacity and, in some ju...

Municipal administrators, waste managers and recycling coordinators are doing a great job diverting more and more materials from landfill. The pressure of diminishing landfill capacity and, in some jurisdictions, guidelines or legal requirements to divert 50 per cent or more of material from disposal, has made the business of tracking and quantifying the achievement as necessary as it is complex.

With oil nearing $100 a barrel, recyclers throughout North America are well positioned to capitalize as competition increases globally for the significant energy embodied in some wastes, and recyclable and compostable materials are now recognized as a resource. Prices paid for many types of recyclables have been consistently higher for longer than any period in the last 30 years. Governments are expanding the list of materials collected in residential programs and targeting schools, businesses and construction sites for increased recovery of valuable recyclable commodities.

Now a new state-of-the-art web-based data management tool can enable program and facility managers to easily track and analyze progress in achieving their waste diversion goals.

Re-TRAC is an online recycling and waste data management tool was created back in 2004 by Emerge Knowledge Design, a Winnipeg-based company, and is now being used in Canada, the US and the UK. Re-TRAC provides governments with a comprehensive approach to gather and analyze data from individual communities, landfills, transfer stations, haulers, businesses, and others that generate and handle waste and recyclables.


For instance, South Carolina replaced a paper and mail-based survey for collecting recycling data from counties across the state with a Re-TRAC system. The new system not only enables the state to more efficiently and regularly gather up-to-date trend data on whether the state is achieving its waste diversion targets; state officials can now identify the key program elements that lead to high recovery and recycling rates. Additionally, counties throughout the state are now able to generate their own program performance and trend reports for management and annual budget purposes.

“They have the ability to generate a report for county coordinators, interest groups and others,” says Elizabeth Rosinski with the South Carolina’s Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling.

The Hamilton County Solid Waste District (HCSWD) in Ohio is comprised of 48 cities and towns, the largest of which is Cincinnati. Each city and town has its own recycling program, either through a contract or individual subscription. Cities and towns are not required to report their recycling data to HCSWD, but have an incentive to report. “We give money back to the communities based on the amount they recycle each year,” says Holly Christmann, Program Manager for HCSWD.

Once data is entered into the Re-TRAC program, reports can be generated quickly. “We do a lot of analysis of changes in recycling tonnages from year to year by community,” notes Christmann. “What used to take staff many hours to gather and analyze data can now be done at the push of a button. We enter disposal data into the system, and use that for comparative purposes as well.” Re-TRAC imported historical data when originally setup for Hamilton County which assists with trend analyses.

Re-TRAC currently has users in 23 states in the U.S. including six state governments, 45 counties/solid waste management districts, and three municipal governments.

Here in Canada, the Province of Manitoba is using Re-TRAC and related products for a variety of data collection activities.

A subscription has also recently been signed by the Scottish organization responsible for collecting and analyzing data from all 32 councils in the country making Scotland not only the first European client but also the first national roll-out.

In addition to continually expanding into new geographic markets, Emerge is also adding new data management products for the waste management sector. These include:

1. A data management tool to track waste generation and diversion rates at construction sites.

2. A system to help institutions such as universities and hospitals to track, analyze and report data right down to the dumpster level.

3. A system to allow school districts to track waste management costs and diversion rates at each of their schools.

4. An online information clearinghouse that helps public sector entities quickly and easily organize and present recycling and waste management information to local residents.

5. An online appointment setting system for household hazardous waste events.

Re-TRAC also recently added the capability for all users to report on the environmental benefits of their recycling programs, including greenhouse gas reductions and energy savings.

Rick Penner is President of Re-Trac in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Contact Rick at rpenner@re-trac.com

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