The City of Phoenix (hereafter referred to as the City) is the sixth largest city in the United States with a population of 1.4 million, embedded in a metro area of four million and a state of 6 million. Phoenix continues to take a leadership role in the world of sustainability and has identified several key subject areas in its sustainability plan, which includes municipal waste. Waste value stream management is one of the most difficult, and potentially rewarding, challenge areas within the City's sustainability strategy.
With a population of 3.8 million people in Maricopa County, the Phoenix metropolitan area disposed of more than five million tons of residential solid waste material at local Phoenix metropolitan area landfill sites in 2011. This figure represents approximately 70 percent of the total solid waste material disposed of at Arizona landfills. In 2011, the City of Phoenix buried approximately 900,000 tons of material in the State Route 85 Landfill; over 600,000 of these tons were generated from the residential solid waste stream.
In a 2003 City of Phoenix waste characterization study, it concluded that more than two?thirds of the single?family waste stream consisted of material that can be recycled or diverted through standard recycling and composting programs. Although the City of Phoenix's commingled recycling program has been in effect for more than 20 years, the average residential diversion rate for the City of Phoenix was 13 percent in FY 2011?12, well below the average national recycling rate of 34.1 percent.
The City of Phoenix has set a goal of achieving a city?wide diversion rate of 40 percent by 2020. To accomplish this, the Public Works Department (PWD) has created a "Waste Diversion Action Plan" consisting of a number of programs, strategies, measurable outcomes, and responsibilities. These are organized into short?term (0?1 years), mid?term (2?4 years) and long?term (5?8 years) strategies focused on achieving a city?wide waste diversion rate of 40 percent by 2020.
Critical to the success of the plan is to identify and execute near?term opportunities for waste diversion and aversion that will lead to reduced waste sent to landfills, while simultaneously saving the City and its citizens money.
A critical mid?term strategy is the establishment of a "Research and Development Center of Excellence" (COE) focused on creating value and economic opportunity out of waste value streams. This COE could include a Regional Resource Recovery Center (RRRC) designed to achieve higher levels of diversion through waste capture and diversion to other value?added processes. Ideally, the COE will become the center of an industry cluster focused on capturing waste value streams and turning them into a variety of business opportunities, including new products, services and ventures. This model could be exported to other regions in the United States and around the world.