Texas Goes Big on Recycling Research for Future Planning

by Scott Pasternak on March 27, 2015

Texas Goes Big on Recycling Research for Future PlanningWe all know the benefits of recycling: reduced landfill waste, conservation of natural resources and energy savings, to name a few. But what do we know about the effects of recycling in a particular area?

For the first time, Texas can answer that question in detail, thanks to the Texas Recycling Data Initiative (TRDI). It offers a reliable measure on recycling within the state’s borders, providing legislators with accurate information to guide policy decisions. The findings, presented in February, provide a baseline for future recycling strategies within the state.

Policy makers now have a better handle on current recycling activities, providing a strong foundation to quantify the number of jobs created by the industry and highlight the potential for growth.

Need for Recycling Metrics

Though Texas residents have been recycling for more than two decades, the state turned an important corner about five years ago when a number of large cities adopted plans to encourage recycling. However, no hard data was available about recycling statewide.

To fulfill the need, the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling and the Lone Star Chapter of the Texas Solid Waste Association of North America began exploring the idea of a statewide initiative in 2011. The topic became an area of focus for the Texas Legislature during the 2011 and 2013 sessions.

Methodology for Accurate Results

Burns & McDonnell came on board to conduct the study, relying on a collaborative and confidential approach to gather information from processors and end users of recyclable material. Students from Texas State University in San Marco helped out as survey takers.

The study relied on single points within the stream of recyclables to pinpoint the data and prevent double counting. Gathering information from facilities rather than individual haulers and cities increased accuracy, as all recyclables eventually end up in a facility. A strict rule of confidentiality encouraged cooperation from operators.

The TRDI measures not just the amount of recyclable materials, but also the types of materials and where they are recycled. The study also gathered data on organics, construction and demolition material, electronics and household hazardous waste. The survey’s participation level was high, with one of the highest response rates recorded for a state-level, voluntary program managed through the Re-TRAC Connect platform.

Guiding the Growth of Recycling Industry

The initiative showed that at least 13,919,817 tons of Texas material was recycled in 2013. Other data points included where recyclable material originated, percentage of overall waste that was recycled and the number jobs supported by recycling.

This information, and other data collected, can drive strategies to boost recycling in smaller communities in Texas. It also helps identify what recyclables are under-collected or under-processed, allowing communities to advocate for increased infrastructure and education. In areas where Texas is excelling, the study will validate current recycling efforts and the funding for these programs.

How could data like this help the recycling programs in your state? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And if you’d like to explore how to structure a study that supports recycling or other environmental efforts, please feel free to comment here or reach out on LinkedIn.

Scott Pasternak is a senior project manager for Burns & McDonnell based in Austin, Texas. He provides consulting services for governmental entities to advance their solid waste and recycling programs.


Hays Regional Airport Terminal Northwest Kansas might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a travel hotspot, but for the residents of Hays, Kansas, having a full-service airport is more than just a convenience — it’s a necessity. And thanks to a $1.6 million terminal renovation and expansion designed by the team at Burns & McDonnell, passengers traveling through Hays Regional Airport can now enjoy many of the same modern amenities as larger metropolitan airports.

The Need for Expansion

With many of the airport’s existing systems nearing the end of their service lives and the airport operating at maximum capacity, it was clear that Hays Regional needed a facelift.

The modernized facilities include a new lounge, security areas, restrooms, baggage claim conveyor system, a new roof and upgraded HVAC systems. The new flexible lounge space can easily be configured to maximize secure holdroom capacity or reconfigured to increase the public lobby when needed, for example to accommodate a shift in traffic from a turbo-prop plane to a regional jet. The renovated space also boasts an enlarged TSA screening area that can accommodate new equipment and screening procedures.

The upgraded facilities will allow for more efficient airport operations for not only airport operators but also airline and security staff. The new systems will also help reduce operating costs through energy savings and lower maintenance costs.

Boon to the Local Economy

For the local Hays economy, these upgrades came at just the right time. After SkyWest dropped a daily morning flight to Denver earlier this year, passengers weren’t happy about losing the convenience of flying direct from their community to a major U.S. city.

Hays Mayor Henry Schwaller IV stressed the importance of the regional airport to the local community, saying it links businesses to their customers and suppliers around the world. “People fly into this airport from London, China, Hong Kong and India to do business here in Hays.”

The community relies on the airport for its economic vitality and will benefit greatly from the airport’s added capacity, which is expected to lead to an increase in commercial air service into and out of Hays. In fact, SkyWest has already reinstated its regular morning flight to Denver, and it’s looking like nothing but clear skies for the future of Hays Regional Airport.

As a project manager, it’s always my goal to deliver more than we promised to our clients, which is part of what makes completing this project three weeks ahead of schedule and under budget so rewarding. But even more rewarding is knowing that this project will keep the Hays economy competitive.

Have you had a chance to travel through the newly renovated Hays terminal? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of the new facilities. And if you’re an airport operator looking to make upgrades to your passenger terminal, no matter how big or small, we should talk. Feel free to reach out to me via email or comment below.

Dave Hadel is director of aviation service at Burns & McDonnell. He specializes in transportation engineering, site development, pavement and drainage design for aviation and industrial facilities. He is experienced in managing FAA-funded projects, preparing capital improvement plan data sheets, assisting with applications for federal assistance and implementing Airport Improvement Plan record-keeping practices.


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