Managing Our Daunting Waste: A Challenging, Creative Career

Managing Our Daunting Waste: A Challenging, Creative Career
By Audrey McCollum
Many people believe that we should serve as stewards of God’s creation — Earth and the myriad life forms that inhabit it. We are fortunate that Marc Morgan, the solid waste manager of the Lebanon Solid Waste Facility, feels that deep commitment.
Morgan, a 36-year-old New Hampshire native who received a B.S. in environmental policy from Keene State College, has been in the solid waste field for 15 years. He worked for the town of Warner, for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and as an independent consultant before accepting the Lebanon position two years ago.
“I have always been interested in the environment,” he wrote on e-mail. “Working in this industry is a very hands-on way to steward what has been given.”
Morgan supervises seven staff members in a facility that services 76,000 people from 24 communities, and is open between 8.30-5 on Monday to Friday and from 8.30 to 2 on Saturday. Residents may use the recycling facility at no charge, but a fee is collected for household trash, electronics, refrigerators, air conditioners, propane tanks and tires.
A new aspect of waste management that Morgan is eager to publicize is the acceptance of used vegetable cooking oil.
It is not necessary to filter the oil, although, ideally, it should be brought with a one-gallon container (five gallons for businesses). The oil is then sold to a processor who sells it as a bio-fuel, thus reducing the use of petroleum.
Morgan works closely with the city of Lebanon on conservation strategies, and is developing the “landfill gas to energy program” that is currently his biggest project and “will have a very positive impact in reducing … greenhouse gases,” he wrote.
“As trash decomposes,” he explained, “methane gas … is generated. Methane is a greenhouse gas. Methane is also a great fuel to produce electricity. By capturing the landfill gas in collection vents and pipes, and generating electricity, we not only destroy the methane, we also reduce the need for other petroleum fuel products to be used to produce electricity. This electricity could be used on site and sold back to the grid. Other facilities utilizing this method have electric meters that run backwards.”
“Solid waste management is an exciting industry to work in,” wrote Morgan. “For years, people that worked in this field were affectionately referred to as ‘dump guys.’ With new laws, technologies and a lack of disposal options, individuals working in this field are increasingly more knowledgeable and professional. Staff here are licensed through the state to work at a solid waste facility, they maintain licenses with the /department of Agriculture for scales, they have training to operate in our gravel pit (we are considered a mining operation), and a variety of other training such as confined space, lock out tag procedures, preventative maintenance and more.”
“Scales? Confined space? “Lock out tag procedures?” I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
Morgan responded patiently, although some of the information induced claustrophobic shivers in this writer.
“In New Hampshire, operators of large scales that are used in transactions are required to have training and licensing. Lock out tag procedures are used when equipment in is need of repair and is ‘locked out’ for use. Confined space training is needed for staff entering areas that are not intended for entry. It is a safety measure to ensure if a person goes into an area such as storage tanks they come out. Preventive maintenance is for equipment to ensure a long ‘life’ and that it is running safely,” he wrote.
Furthermore, Morgan has established a “no idling” rule for all of the work vehicles.
Since my knowledge of waste disposal has been limited to sorting our household trash and collecting recyclables in our roadside bin, my e-mail conversation with Marc Morgan confronted me with how little I know in a time when conservation of resources is crucial Too, it brought back the memory of the only exam I ever failed in school: the final exam in physics at the end of my senior year. What exquisite timing!
But today’s school children will be much more knowledgeable. Morgan and his staff offer tours for students and have worked with Kimball Union Academy both in its wildlife biology class and in summer programs. Other schools interested in arranging programs can reach Morgan at marc.morgan@lebcity.com. or at 603-442-6210.
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This column was published in the Connecticut Valley Spectator on May 14, 2009. Audrey McCollum can be reached at amccollum@Valley.net