The first ever national Measurement Summit was held February 27th through March 1, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hosted by the State of Tennessee, SERDC, its members, and EPA Region 4. There were 166 people with 145 in attendance and an additional 21 that participated by Livestream (6-U.S. states, 3-Canadian provinces or national agencies, with the remainder making up industry and local governments). 19 states plus Guam, along with non-government organizations, trade associations, community leaders, two regional associations, and industry attended the event.
Day 1 was focused on the State Measurement Program (SMP) including its history, demonstration of the program, plus the Importance of Data Quality; Insights on Measurement and Benchmarking Data; and State Level Discussions on Measurement. Day 2 provided EPA's Measurement of Sustainable Materials Management; Definitions and Performance Benchmarking for Sustainable Materials; Measurement of Recycling from a Nationwide Perspective; Innovative Tools for Measuring Local Recycling Performance; Measuring the Economic Impacts of Recycling; Looking Beyond Tons Description and a luncheon presentation by the head of sustainability of Coca Cola. Day 3 started with Panel Discussion on Advancing Materials Management Measurement followed by roundtable discussions on community, state and national level data and the barriers, opportunities, and possible next steps.
Limited leadership, staff, resources, and focus continue to be a problem with measurement programs. There is the need for sufficient quality data, at all levels, to provide adequate metrics for improving the U.S. materials and waste management infrastructure. There is still a lack of understanding of the existing system capabilities yet a need for continuing improvements, enhancements, and participation. Most do not want perfection to be the enemy of the good, while all recognize the need for standards, more guidance, and use of similar terminology and definitions. Contamination is a burgeoning issue complicated by China’s National Sword. Programs at all levels need to review a system that needs rethinking to leverage the many strengths available. Additional funding, research, education, policy and market development are necessary to create future measurement goals, confirm standards, solidify definitions and terminology, and make available more tools. Understanding contamination and capture rates, along with the difference between weight, volume, and other possible metrics for success are essential. The goal is to have an integrated data and metrics system for all levels of government and industry that provides adequate market signals with all sectors, levels of government, and industry participation.
The State Measurement Program was born out of eight states seeking common ground on data, metrics, and learning from each other on best management practices to improve their respective programs. This state derived effort has been fully voluntary and rolled out nationally with EPA facilitation and funding. Next steps will involve far greater involvement of all stakeholders to accomplish mutual goals for improving sustainable material management in the United States. The following is a summary listing from the first Measurement Matters Summit facilitated discussions.