Thermal Recovery of Organic Bearing Waste
Commencing in 2008, US Ecology operates a state-of the-art Thermal Desorption Unit (TDU) at our Robstown, TX facility. The TDU provides sustainable waste solutions by recovering valuable organic material from wastes generated from multiple industry segments including petroleum refining, automotive manufacturing, clean energy, and aerospace technologies. This process provides an alternative solution to incineration, stabilization, and landfill. Oils and other organics are separated from wastes and recovered to be recycled as fuel in place of consuming virgin fossil fuels. Our thermal recovery process is also successful at removing organic contamination from metal bearing catalysts used in the refining industry. The catalysts, once processed, can either be returned to the generator or sent to recyclers to reclaim semi-precious metals such as cobalt, nickel, and zinc. Our thermal process is used as a critical step to prepare certain materials like lithium batteries for further recycling and recovery.
Thermal Soil Remediation
Considered the United States’ last frontier, the state of Alaska is known for its breathtaking views and expansive wilderness. Maintaining Alaska’s sensitive ecosystems is the job of US Ecology’s Moose Creek Facility (MCF.) At MCF, non-hazardous soils that have been impacted by industry and commerce are treated thermally to standards five times cleaner than standards recommended by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. MCF treats thousands of tons of impacted soil each year, keeping harmful contaminants from entering Alaska’s land and watersheds. Once certified clean, the soils are 95% compactable fill and can be used in a variety of situations including topsoil and road projects.
Recycling of Glycol
US Ecology leverages its unique marketing skills and broad customer network to combine the links on a sustainable supply chain for glycols. Whether sourcing raw materials from small quantity, independent mechanical contractors utilized in a HVAC application, or from the world’s largest spent aircraft deicing fluid collection program, US Ecology is committed to making a meaningful impact by offering an environmentally friendly, cost-effective alternative to manufactured glycols. Our process also helps consumers achieve their sustainability goals. In addition to these “downstream” benefits recognized through the distribution of recycled products, this program also quite literally protects our “upstream” natural resources by creating a socially responsible outlet helping to prevent glycols from being introduced into our local landscapes and surface waters. US Ecology currently de-waters and de-mineralizes collected raw materials to create a virgin-equivalent glycol, which can be used as a base fluid for blended products such as heat transfer fluid, windshield washer deicing fluid, and diesel motor antifreeze. In Alaska, which is typically dependent on goods and commodities supplied from the lower 48 states, US Ecology has invested in new glycol distillation equipment and technology to minimize waste and re-energize the Alaskan economy by reusing goods already located in Alaska.
Metal Recovery Service
Our Canton, OH facility provides a sustainable alternative to traditional stabilization and landfill disposal. Our recycling technologies economically recover metals such as copper, cobalt, nickel, zinc, and tin resulting in a significant benefit to the environment while providing financial relief and recycling credits to our customers. Our effective reclamation of heavy metals from a variety of waste streams saves thousands of tons of metal bearing wastes from entering landfills each year.
Reuse of Drums and Containers
Over 120 million steel and poly drums are manufactured each year in the United States. US Ecology receives, on average, about 75,000 drums per month and, at any point in time, will typically have a total inventory on-hand of around 30,000 drums. In 2019, US Ecology began a companywide program to inspect, refurbish, test, and recertify shipping containers in compliance with EPA and DOT regulations that allow for reuse of these containers within our organization or resold back to customers for reuse. Our careful and thorough inspection of these containers ensures the highest level of safety and compliance. Reuse of a qualifying non-bulk container can save as much as 50% over the cost to manufacture a new drum, resulting in a substantially lower environmental footprint, cost structure, and economic impact. US Ecology inspects thousands of drums each month to reduce procurement needs, and to lower the overall carbon footprint associated with hazardous waste disposal.
Reducing Our Environmental Footprint
Limited Greenhouse Gas Emissions
US Ecology’s primary business involves the responsible and sustainable management of hazardous and non-hazardous waste streams generated by industry and the government. US Ecology operates five hazardous waste landfills and one low level radioactive waste landfill. The landfills owned and operated by the Company take limited organic wastes that contribute to methane generation and other greenhouse gas emissions. Any organic waste received is chemically (or thermally) treated to destroy harmful organic contaminants prior to final disposal. Our treatment processes have low energy intensity and a very low greenhouse gas impact.
US Ecology’s transportation fleet consists of over 1,000 over-the-road vehicles used in the routing and collection of customer waste. US Ecology is in the process of deploying a detailed logistics software program that optimizes routes and provides specific real-time routing assistance. It is also expanding its transportation hub network and modifying permits at many facilities to minimize travel distance on waste collection routes.
The Company is committed to continually upgrading its fleet with more fuel-efficient power units and evaluating EV and hydrogen fueled options. US Ecology announced in January 2021 that it is participating in an exciting program with Romeo Power, Inc. to evaluate opportunities for fleet electrification. Learn more here. More efficient routing reduces fuel consumption and, combined with continual updates of our fleet to replace older units, lowers our overall emissions footprint.
At this time, the Company is primarily focused on full quantification of fuel consumption from its on and off-road vehicles as well as its marine vessels and has not yet established specific targets for improved fuel economy.
Limited Waste Generation and Water Usage
US Ecology generates an insignificant volume of waste from its internal processes. The waste treatment process includes removing hazardous characteristics from the waste received or rendering the waste environmentally safe for disposal at a US Ecology facility, disposal at a third-party non-hazardous landfill or shipment to a hazardous waste thermal treatment facility according to government regulations.
US Ecology uses an insignificant amount of water in its internal processes, but receives contaminated wastewater from generators for treatment. Liquid waste streams are treated to remove hazardous characteristics and to meet discharge limits acceptable for discharge to a publicly owned non-hazardous wastewater treatment plant.
Fuel, Electrical and Natural Gas Consumption
US Ecology’s energy consumption is from three primary sources: fuel consumption, electrical consumption and natural gas consumption.
Fuel consumption includes fuel used in the Company’s-over-the-road transportation fleet (see above), off-road heavy equipment utilized for waste treatment and landfill operations, and water vessels utilized in marine response operations.
US Ecology is electrical and natural gas energy consumption is entirely sourced from public utilities servicing each area the Company has operations. A majority of this electrical power is used for lighting, heating and cooling, and to power pumps at wastewater treatment operations and air handling blowers used to control the minimal air emissions at our waste treatment operations.
The Company’s electrical consumption in 2020 was estimated at 36,607,146 KWh. A survey of our electrical service providers indicated that approximately 39% or 14,368,025 KWh of the power purchased and consumed by US Ecology was generated from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.
Many Company locations consume natural gas for heating buildings and office space, and some limited operations use natural gas as an energy source within operations. In connection with the Company’s goal of documenting its total energy usage, natural gas consumption will be quantified in future reports.
US Ecology has not attempted to normalize its energy consumption at this time. The Company is comprised of different businesses that include services and treatment operations with differing technology and processes. The Company will continue to consider data normalization as part of its sustainability program.
Limitations to collecting energy usage data include the limited ability to quantify energy consumption used for heating and cooling purposes in some locations. Additionally, renewable energy data is limited to what is publicly provided by the utility providing the electricity.
Every year, millions of pounds of aerosol cans are discarded from households, retailers, aerosol can fillers and product manufacturers across a variety of industries. In 2020, US Ecology developed and installed a patent-pending aerosol recycling technology that is the most sustainable solution in the U.S. market, and the only solution to recycle or reuse 100% of the aerosol can and its components. Our unique technology turns discarded aerosol waste into alternative fuels and recyclable metal through the following steps:
1. Under vacuum, cans are compacted to produce dry metal bricks for multi-purpose recycling.
2. Liquid product and gas propellant are 100% captured and separated by vacuum and compression technology to produce reusable alternative fuel.
3. Patented technologies further compress gas propellant into a purified recyclable liquid fuel, like liquid petroleum gas (LPG)
All of this is accomplished through a fully enclosed, zero-emission process that is equipped with oxygen monitoring sensors to protect the environment and the health and safety of our certified operating professionals. US Ecology’s aerosol recycling technology, the first of its kind in the United States, will save hundreds of tons of aerosol hazardous waste from entering landfills and polluting our environment each year. This will also allow the aerosols and packaged goods industry to better manage a long-standing environmental challenge while producing new, compatible end products that can recirculate into the market for a broad array of reuse to safely fuel the future.
Retail Solutions - Smarter Sorting Sustainable Technology
In 2019, US Ecology entered an exclusive partnership with Smarter Sorting, a machine learning technology company whose software gives retailers a safer and more compliant classification system for their hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. This technology easily identifies thousands of discarded products that are exempt from RCRA hazardous waste regulation, allowing for recycling and reuse of these products through alternative technologies. Specific products can be automatically identified for ethanol recovery, electronic recycling, paint recycling or surfactant blending; saving tons of waste from entering landfills each year.
As pressure and concern over the secure disposal of pharmaceutical products increases, state and national agencies are further regulating disposal of these wastes to protect our ecosystem from harm. US Ecology has dedicated solutions to support the needs of a broad base of generators of pharmaceutical materials. From hazardous and nonhazardous pharmaceutical wastes to DEA controlled substances, our national team of professionals provide secure pick-up, transportation, and disposal, keeping tons of unwanted chemical compounds from impacting our delicate natural resources.
Emergency Response Services
Whether we are responding to catastrophic oil spills, destruction from wildfires and natural disasters, biohazardous contamination, hazardous product releases, chemical fires or events involving an array of volatile substances, the paramount objective of US Ecology’s emergency response services is to minimize the impact on the environment. This is achieved through rapid, safe, and effective containment, removal, and disposal and/or treatment of contaminants and hazardous waste.
As an industry leader, our environmental response specialists are committed to consistently improving procedures with the latest technologies and methodologies to minimize waste generation and maintain US Ecology’s unmatched standard of quality service excellence.
Managed Services Group (MSG)
Our Managed Services Group has over 20 years of experience developing and supporting programs to assist our customers reach their sustainability goals. Continuous improvement is the cornerstone of our program and we are committed to innovative solutions, regulatory compliance, and environmental sustainability.
Our continuous improvement initiatives include:
Waste Recycling and Reuse - Opportunities for expanded recycling programs and the improvement of existing programs.
Landfill Diversion and Minimization - Moving up-stream to reduce waste generation at its source.
Waste Elimination and Reduction - Evaluating new technologies to process wastes into commodities.
Our dedicated Project Managers work with each customer to drive process enhancements and identify pollution prevention alternatives. We promote policies designed to enhance the environment and encourage waste reduction and recycling. US Ecology is an industry leader in understanding the best available recycling and disposal technologies and we find that this commitment to sustainability aligns our program with our client's environmental goals and objectives.