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Solid Waste Project Clients
SERA Solid Waste Publications
Skumatz Economic Research Associates (SERA) is a small boutique firm with nationally-recognized expertise in program / policy design, quantitative evaluation, and creative / actionable analysis work in recycling / solid waste integrated materials management, energy efficiency, and sustainability. The firm (a WBE) was established in 1990 and in that time, SERA has conducted more than 200 solid waste project assignments in the US and internationally, has become a national leader in PAYT, and has published extensively on our project research.
SERA’s staff includes staff with extensive hands-on experience in solid waste – including former City staff (36 years of experience), hauler management staff (34 years), and analysis staff (most with 9 or more years of nationwide project experience). Our staff include economics, statistics, accounting, environment, business, and other backgrounds; their experience includes evaluation, planning, program assessment, surveys and statistics, quantitative research, policy analysis and operations work. This mix assures we provide recommendations that balance best-strategies, cost-effectiveness, consider all perspectives / stakeholders, and have real-world implementability.
SERA’s focus is to identify best practices generally, and tailored well-suited strategies for individual clients. SERA has a reputation for quantitative, data-based research, and for developing creative approaches to find practical (and affordable) methods to quantify complex or hard-to-measure impacts. Data collection is a key element distinguishing our work. This includes: generator surveys, stakeholder and city interviews, set out surveys, waste characterization studies, and other primary data collection. Our unique in-house data base of information from 1,300 communities / counties nationwide provides us with ready information on programs / policies, collection and processing, demographics, tonnages, cost, rates, funding, outreach, and other data in place nationwide. These data have been used for case studies, program leads, and quantitative information on impacts and costs for clients. In-house tools supporting our work include:
“Comp-Plan-in-a-Box” - a tool that identifies highest-scoring residential, commercial, MF, ZW, and C&D programs for first-cut at programs for clients (and other applications).
“WDAM / Waste Comp Proxy” – a tool that estimates tonnages and costs for waste diversion strategies, and fills in tailored waste projections and waste compositions for clients lacking these data.
“PAYT-All” – a tool for modeling PAYT feasibility, design, and rates, with contributing elements for projecting tonnage effects, subscription shifts, and effects from alternative rate design assumptions. Residential and commercial PAYT rates are computed.
Residential & Commercial Curbside Collection Cost Model – a tool that allows us to model the collection costs under varied assumptions for costs, hauler vs. city, trash / recycling/ organics combinations, and other variations, for both residential and commercial collection.
Facilities Cost Model (MRFs and Compost) – a model estimating capital and operating costs for MRFs (dump & pick, small manual, small automated, medium, large, and mega plants), and organics processing facilities.
Community Database – containing detailed solid waste programs/policies, tonnage, cost, and demographic data from 1,300 communities nationwide.
SERA’s focus is to base our analyses on real-world data. To support this work, SERA maintains a unique nationwide database of information (cost, programs, policies, diversion, demographics) from more than 1,300 communities and counties across North America. This allows us to analyze real-world performance of program alternatives, suitability for client communities, run scenarios, determine benchmarks, and draw conclusions about “best practices”. We have conducted “best practices” work for food waste programs, single stream, ADFs, PAYT, commercial programs, mandates / bans, collection frequency, funding options, and other strategies. We have also conducted thousands and thousands of surveys and detailed interviews – with cities / counties / agencies, businesses, households, haulers, facilities, stakeholders, and others – to gather the data needed to conduct credible quantitative evaluation and policy analysis.
We bring extensive experience in the economic analysis of facilities, infrastructure, programs, policies, and services. This includes costs to generators and to the solid waste agencies; costs for collection, processing (the variety of types and sizes of facilities), transport, and management; and administrate / oversight / management costs. This allows us to examine the net costs and compare strategies on a variety of indicators including cost per ton, cost per generator and other metrics across options and strategies. We have analyzed costs and benefits – and the present values – to assess solid waste investments and options. We also assessed the specific approaches leading communities and states around North America have taken on TBL in solid waste to identify best practices, and have used this for clients. .
Because many communities cannot afford waste composition studies, we developed a waste composition proxy model, that allows us to approximate the residential waste composition (based on demographics and recycling “maturity”), and separately, the commercial waste composition (based on employment by NAICS code and recycling “maturity”). We model the results of these data with projections we have developed on future anticipated changes in the composition of the waste stream 20 years out, incorporating lightweighting, switches to plastics, etc. This work has been used successfully for assignments in many communities in the US and Canada.
SERA developed and maintains reliable models for costing: 1) recycling / composting / trash drop-offs; 2) residential and commercial collection (trash, recycling, composting); 3) Recycling processing / MRFs; 4) windrow-based composting processing, and 5) hauling. These models allow us to plug in local factors for labor, local distances, etc. to develop tailored costs for the services needed as part of an integrated materials management system. Additionally, Dr. Skumatz developed SERA’s Waste Diversion Analysis Model (WDAM) to integrate modeling of the impacts of strategies, programs, facilities, and policies on tonnages, costs, facilities, and flows.
SERA uses these models and experience to develop Integrated Waste Management Plans from local to state levels. We are also experienced using input-output modeling to estimate job and economic impacts of recycling and organics programs at the state or county level.
SERA has expertise and training in specialized strategies that address the key problems with stakeholder meetings that avoid the usual problems (dominant personalities, non-contribution by some, same positions, focus on the negative, not coming to “closure”). We use an integrated four-strategy approach: Appreciative Inquiry, pre-survey, in-meeting voting / clickers, and multiple meetings with a web option as well. We have used these approaches for scores of meetings, and have presented on these strategies in multiple conferences. We have conducted thousands of detailed interviews with stakeholders and focus group work as part of process evaluation, “new measures”, market adoption, and other projects. In solid waste and recycling we have conducted focus groups locally and statewide. Our interviews have included commercial builders / developers / owners, residential households and builders, contractors, waste haulers, recycling processors, public officials, agricultural sectors, and others. In many recent stakeholder meetings, we have used real-time voting options (clickers and remote voting) that have helped make meetings especially productive.
SERA has designed, conducted, and/or evaluated behavioral programs in the energy and recycling / solid waste fields. This includes residential programs all across the nation, and additional evaluations of military programs, schools programs, and commercial programs. The work includes multiple social marketing projects, including detailed evaluations with quasi experimental design and detailed tracking of impacts, costs and persistence of effects. In one projects, we used our retention work to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of “cycling” a well-known behavioral energy program. For a large client in California, we prepared a wide-ranging best practices manual on behavioral programs, addressing impact evaluation, net-to-gross, retention, and NEB methods, results / state-of-the-art, and gaps. We have conducted detailed work measuring the impact of outreach and education programs, and have written manuals and developed tools for social marketing. We have examined the impacts attributable to attitudinal and socio-demographic effects, including self-efficacy and other factors.
We have conducted high level facility cost work for half a dozen projects, including MRFs (sophisticated and basic), organics (yard waste vs. food waste), C&D sorting and processing, landfill gas recovery and other facilities. SERA has models of MRFs (dump and pick and hub and spoke to “mega” single stream models), composting facilities, drop-off facilities (MSW, recycling, and composting) and drop-box and hauling models that let us identify the costs and sizing issues for any supporting infrastructure that may be needed. We have also examined contracts and contract alternatives for specific facilities and our SWMPs include assessments of capacity, costs, feasibly of contracts and LF / Diversion processing / transfer facilities.
SERA has conducted extensive work reviewing the pros and cons, legalities, and outcomes for alternative collection arrangements for residential trash, recycling, and organics options, as well as work on the commercial side. SERA and Dr. Skumatz have gathered and analyzed data from around the nation on the relative performance of competitive, contracted, franchised, districted, and licensed arrangements, and conducted case studies and contractual documents and examples from large and small communities across the country. These data have provided extensive information on the range of outcomes pre-post from changes in collection arrangements (including customer rate savings). SERA has assembled and developed recommended language for RFPs, identified realistic implementation timelines and options. SERA has developed decision-tree processes to efficiently and inclusively work through the trade-offs with City Councils and, when contracts / districts / franchises are selected, walk through the individual decisions that must be discussed prior to the preparation of any RFPs / RFBs or other documents. SERA has prepared RFPs / RFBs, conducted Q&A / bidder meetings, evaluated responses, and addressed key negotiation issues.
SERA has published on cutting-edge strategies for next generation metrics (see our article on PRR – Percent Recoverables Remaining in Resource Recycling 2016). Has many key advantages over traditional metrics. We have helped design / implement this approach for clients (leading ones around the country), and have developed PRR-E, which includes a simple adjustment for emissions and helps prioritize target materials based on environmental considerations. Expertise developing SUB-regional goals for states – and goals based on multiple metrics.
SERA has conducted multiple studies for a variety of clients and materials including recycling markets and recovery rates to identify the “Value…” of buried materials; conducted markets research on prices and materials recovery and net market prices including price fluctuations, cost to process, recovery rates, and net profitability of traditional materials and potential “next” materials. Conducted market research on compost markets.
Program and Policy Analysis including impacts / costs / best practices / benchmarking
EPA, Mass OEOA, NSDA, Steel Recycling, National Recycling Coalition, ABA, AF&PA, Dart, Waste Management, Insinkerator, NEMA / TRC, Coalition of 15 cities / counties in CA, State of NC, State of MN, Oregon WPLG, Arlington County VA, Chittenden Solid Waste Management District VT, King County WA, Alameda StopWaste CA, Seattle WA, Fort Collins CO, Westminster CO, Boulder CO, Boulder County CO, many others
Pay as you Throw / PAYT studies & rates EPA 10, EPA 9, EPA headquarters, States of Ohio, California, Illinois, Iowa, Wyoming; Large NE City, Asheville NC, Seattle, Arlington County VA, Westminster CO, Loveland CO, Fort Collins CO, Chittenden Solid Waste Management District VT, King County WA, Sunrise FL, Vail CO, Eagle County CO, Largo FL, Knox County TN, Cincinnati OH, Anchorage AK, Jackson Hole WY, Pasadena CA, West Jordan UT, Chandler AZ, many others
Comprehensive / Zero Waste / Materials Management Sustainability Plans
State of CO, State of CT, Dakota County MN, Anchorage AK, Nashville, Boulder County CO, Boulder CO, Mesa County CO, El Paso County, Westminster CO, Salt Lake City UT, Minnesota SWMCB, Pitkin County CO, Alameda County CA, Jackson Hole, others
Leading Communities / Best Practices
Metro Vancouver BC (three projects), Lethbridge AB, Alameda StopWaste (two projects), KAB, Colorado CDPHE (two projects), King County WA, City/County San Francisco, Minnesota SWMCB, Colorado , EPA5, EPA9, Private Clients (three).
Commercial sector studies
Dakota Co MN, Minnesota SWMCB (three projects), Santa Barbara, Mecklenburg County NC, Alameda County StopWaste, San Jose, Anchorage, Ecocycle, Boulder, Washington County OR, Snohomish County OR, Metro Vancouver BC, others
Portland Metro, Alameda Stopwaste CA, Washington CWC, Denver CO, Akron OH, Seattle WA,
Transfer station studies
Portland Metro OR (2 projects), Largo FL, Seattle WA, private client, Anchorage AK, Pitkin County CO
Hazardous waste analyses
Portland Metro OR, Seattle WA, Seattle/King County WA, Alameda Stopwaste CA, California DTSC
Workshops / Webinars / Manuals / Train the Trainer / Facilitations EPA headquarters, EPA10, EPA 9, EPA8, EPA5, States of California, Ohio, Wyoming, Iowa, Colorado CDPHE, Coalition of Northeastern Governors / CONEG, Southern States Energy Board, Ball, Canadian MOE, Boulder County, Massachusetts OEOA, ABA, others
Yard waste, composting, food waste studies
EPA, Insinkerator, Illinois Seventh Generation, Boulder, Longmont CO, Arlington County VA, Chittenden, VT, Dept of Energy, Seattle, Santa Barbara, King County, Boulder County, Portland Metro, Anchorage, private client.
Hauler / Collection / PAYT Studies
USEPA, Edgewater CO, Lethbridge AB, Westminster CO, AF&PA, private client, State of CO, State of CT, Alameda StopWaste, El Paso County CO, Minnesota SWMCB.
Triple Bottom Line / Benefit Cost
Lethbridge AB, Nashville, State of CA, City of Seattle, Fort Collins CO, Longmont CO, Colorado CDPHE.
Collection Alternatives Service Model / Efficiencies
Lethbridge, Longmont CO, Asheville NC, Private client, State of CT, State of CO, others.
Detailed Recycling & Composting Processing Facility Cost / Profitability Models; Disposal options
State of CO, Private client, NYC, Resource Recycling, Pitkin County, Private hauler, Akron / Summit County, others
Single stream studies
AF&PA, Vancouver BC, private client (multiple), Larimer County CO, Longmont CO, many others.
Service / franchise / contract options, RFPs, Ordinances
Littleton CO, Golden CO, Edgewater CO, Sheridan CO, Denver CO, Boulder County, Boulder, Louisville CO, Broomfield CO, Easttown PA, West Jordan UT, Waukesha County WI.
Waste sorts / set out surveys
KAB, Broomfield, Boulder, Longmont CO, Boulder County, Fort Collins, Superior, San Francisco, UC-Boulder, Snohomish County, Cincinnati, Anchorage, Gainesville, Alachua County, Oak Park, others.
Commercial surveys / interviews / on-sites
Mecklenburg County NC, Santa Barbara, City and County of Denver, Minnesota SWMCB, Westminster CO, Boulder, Boulder County, Pitkin County, Mesa County, Superior CO, Seattle, California DTSC/NEMA, Vail CO, Edgewater CO, Anchorage, Oregon DEQ, Washington County OR, State of Wyoming, Product Stewardship Institute, others
Residential surveys / interviews Westminster CO, Boulder, Boulder County, Asheville NC, Pitkin County, Mesa County, Superior CO, Edgewater CO, Fort Collins, Longmont CO, California DTSC, Santa Clarita CA, West Jordan UT, Anchorage, many others.
Source reduction measurement / hard to measure effects
Alameda Stopwaste, Seattle, Portland Metro, Iowa DNR, EPA headquarters, NSDA, State of MN, California DTSC / NEMA
Testimony / Legislative support
King County, Colorado E-waste Task Force, Toronto Ontario, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Iowa DNR, State of California, GA legislature, FL legislature, WUTC, ALEC, NCSL
Facilitation, Public Meetings
State of Colorado CDPHE-3 projects, Colorado National Guard, State of CO, Fort Collins CO, National Recycling Coalition, Anchorage, Jackson Hole WY, Santa Clarita CA, Massachusetts EOEA, Pitkin County CO, Superior CO, other.
Education, behavioral, and social marketing program analysis
Iowa DNR, Colorado CDPHE, Energy Journal, Insinkerator, CIEE – California Institute for Energy and Environment, Center for Environmental Technology / CET, Tompkins County NY, Alliance to Save Energy, Resource Recycling, Boulder County, Alameda StopWaste, NW Regional Technical Forum, others
Job creation / “green jobs”:
Colorado CDPHE, CAFR, EPA headquarters, EPA 9, State of Illinois, Boulder County CO, Arlington County VA, Chittenden SWMD VT
State of CT, Loveland/Fort Collins, Portland Metro OR (multiple projects), Anchorage, Ecocycle, City of Boulder, Boulder County, Alameda County, UC-Boulder, AF&PA, NYSERDA, King County WA, Honolulu, Bonneville Power Administration, Western Disposal
Detailed forecasting / modeling / waste stream analysis
Seattle WA, State of CT, Nashville, Alameda StopWaste CA (multiple assignments), Boulder CO (multiple), Snohomish County WA (2 assignments), Pitkin County CO, Mesa County CO, Kitsap County WA, Thurston County WA, Boulder County, Portland Metro OR (multiple projects), Chittenden SWMD VT, Arlington County VA, Oregon WPLG, Metro Vancouver BC, San Jose CA, Honolulu HI, Oregon, Austin TX, private client (multiple) many others.
Rate studies – Residential
Boulder CO, Asheville NC, Anchorage AK, Jackson Hole WY, Summit County CO, Porterville CA, San Jose, Santa Clarita CA, Berkeley CA, West Jordan UT, Austin TX, Kauai HI, Arlington County VA, Sacramento & County CA, Cincinnati OH, Pasadena CA, Seattle WA, Chandler AZ, many others
Rate studies – Commercial & facility
Island County WA, Kitsap County, Santa Barbara CA, Seattle WA, Portland Metro OR, Morgan Hill / Gilroy CA, UC-Boulder, San Jose CA, Largo FL, others
GHG / Environmental / emissions impact estimation
Seattle, Colorado CDPHE, Boulder County, EPA, Larimer County, Loveland
Product stewardship / ADFs:
NEMA, California DTSC, Product Stewardship Institute, Alameda StopWaste, Boulder, Boulder County, Reason Foundation, private client
Feedstock / Flow Control / Forecasting
Taylor Biomass (NY)
Dr. Lisa Skumatz brings more than 36 years of experience in solid waste policy and program design, evaluation, and modeling. For 24 years, Dr. Skumatz has been Principal of SERA, a research and consulting firm that specializes in solid waste and resource conservation work. Lisa is widely known for her “data focus” in solid waste. She gathers real-world data and analyzes it to identify defensible and transferable lessons about program performance, costs, appropriateness, and best practices – and uses the information to develop locally-appropriate / tailored strategies for clients. She has developed detailed models – based in real-world practice --- for residential collection, recycling processing and compost facilities, used to identify appropriate technologies, costs of program or policy changes, and efficiencies and profitability in operation. Her focus is “best practices” and quantitative policy and program work to identify effective and cost-effective sustainability initiatives at the local, regional, national, and international level. Lisa’s expertise includes: integrated planning, PAYT, source reduction / ZW, funding, social marketing / outreach, organics, collection and processing modeling, job / economic impacts, benefit-cost and TBL analysis, and other topics. Lisa recently completed the Statewide Integrated Management Plan for Colorado – adding to previous work on Plans for Oregon, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
Lisa is the national expert in PAYT, and has conducted work helping hundreds of communities as well as national, regional, and state work in PAYT (OH, CA, IL, IA, WY, and others). She has conducted state-of-the-art work in social marketing and outreach programs (including a “how-to” manual and tools); organics and food scraps programs (including a manual for EPA and work for IL, MN, CO, Chittenden VT, Philadelphia, Arlington VA, and other clients); and expertise in successful commercial strategies. Lisa assembled and maintains the largest database of community data (more than 1000 communities), a database she has updated every 2-4 years since 1994. Lisa and her work are widely respected in the US and internationally – reflected in her project assignments but also in her unique distinction of winning two National-level “Lifetime Achievement…” awards (from SWANA and the NRC) and appointments/elections to numerous boards and panels. She has published 150 papers and articles; Resource Recycling says her articles are their most requested reprints.
Mr. Horton is a seasoned solid waste professional with 34 years of experience working for a leading Colorado waste hauler providing residential and commercial garbage and diversion services (trash, recycling, and organics / food waste). He managed introduction of innovative programs, transition to a CNG fleet, and has overseen operation of landfills, processing of commercial recyclables, dump-and-pick operations, and processing of residential and commercial compost.
His expertise in performance statistics and “costing” is exceptional, and he understands program design and delivery from “soup to nuts”. He is an expert in the design and implementation of PAYT, including roll-out, rate design, and the special requirements to successfully conduct PAYT under contract in communities. He brings extra credibility with haulers, and makes sure recommendations are as ‘unburdensome’ as possible to haulers.
He implemented PAYT under a variety of conditions, addressing all the key steps and issues:
• Developing detailed implementation plans, including timing, responsibilities, and decision-points;
• Designing, conducting, and assessing pilot programs;
• Implementing PAYT systems with / without recycling and with / without organics;
• Rolling out PAYT to the company’s customers directly (open subscription);
• Rolling out PAYT under the situation of a new City contract (working closely with the city on data transfers, co-implementation, customer billing, customer service and calls, etc.;
• Running multi-sized cart-based systems and “orange bag” program designs;
• Customer outreach strategies;
• Attending stakeholder and public engagement meetings;
• Identifying cost of service and setting rates;
• Negotiating, ordering, assembling, delivering, and managing tens of thousands of cart and other tasks.
Mr. Horton has a remarkable background in accounting (with particular mastery of solid waste accounting), and served as Vice President of Finance and President for a hauling company for more than 30 years. His responsibilities included rate setting for all services (residential and commercial trash, recycling, and organic service). He constructed the bids for municipal clients. His financial expertise includes equipment depreciation and amortization, optimal financing strategies, billing, accounting treatments, and the range of other issues involved in solid waste accounting and rate setting – for collection and facilities. His is skill in performance statistics and “costing” is exceptional, and he understands program design and delivery from “soup to nuts”. He brings expertise in tonnage reporting and estimation at the local level.
He brings expertise in tonnage reporting and estimation at the local level. Gary has developed detailed models of MRF processing, residential and commercial collection services, and organics processing. He recently completed work developing cost models for collection and processing for the Colorado State Integrated Materials Management Plan. He has worked on projects in Boulder, Longmont, Boulder County, Lethbridge Canada, Asheville NC, and Colorado’s Statewide Materials Management Study, CT State Recycling Plan, and Private Client MRF Profitability Project.
Ms. Dana D’Souza has more than 10 years of detailed experience with data collection and interviews on solid waste topics with SERA. She has conducted program review, case study, and bench-marking interviews with solid waste program staff across the country, including data on program design, costs, infrastructure, and diversion. She has collected data on the wide variety of recycling and solid waste programs across the US – including recycling, yard waste, source reduction, electronics, single stream recycling, education / outreach programs, and others.
Dana was a task manager for SERA’s work on Colorado’s IMM Plan, including detailed work organizing and analyzing the 10 regional stakeholder meetings identifying opportunities and barriers. She was also responsible for analysis of many of the program recommendations and case studies.
Dana recently completed a project to assess the potential and the job effects from food waste recovery in the State of Illinois, and managed the evaluation of a specialized food waste / social marketing project. She has extensive experience in social marketing and behavioral programs, including work for Colorado CDPHE, Philadelphia, and others. Dana manages SERA’s periodic nationwide community surveys – gathering data from more than 1000 communities nationwide on programs, demographics, costs, facilities, and tonnages.
Dana managed two recent SERA projects assessing regional compost markets in two different states, interviewing more than 100 stakeholders to assess facility / processing capacity (current and future), prices / tip fees, products and their prices, beneficiation steps being used, and much more information. She conducted work examining and comparing performance for two dozen communities in a leading county in the US as part of a “5 year plan” evaluation. She has conducted surveys to identify recycling behaviors and practices for businesses in Minnesota, Canada, and North Carolina. She conducted interviews with dozens of stakeholders as well as resident businesses and multifamily households in a northwest community to assess an innovative downtown recycling initiative. These data have been used to identify cutting edge programs and provide key data on the factors affecting program performance.
Ms. Vander Vliet has strong quantitative and data collection skills, and an excellent inter-personal approach to help gain survey participation. She has conducted work for SERA data collection and set out surveys. She has participated in our Sustainability Behavior Change project and has worked on outreach and data collection.
Education: MS entomology, Washington State University, Pullman WA (2013); BS Zoology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins CO (2008); Previous employment: Graduate and Undergraduate Research Assistant (2005-08, 2008-11), Peninsula Humane Society (2018-19), Las Cruces NM Police Department (2012-18).Our newest associates- resumes to be uploaded soon
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SERA and Dr. Skumatz have over 120 publications in solid waste and recycling in trade journals, conference papers, and peer-reviewed publications. Below is a list of many of these under different subject areas. Please contact us for questions on these or other publications.