WTE features in Florida recycling law

Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law this week legislation (HR 7243) that would promote recycling in Florida and provide waste-to-energy an important opportunity to contribute toward that goal. Under the new law, each county must implement a recyclable materials recycling program that shall have a goal of recycling recyclable solid waste by 40 percent by December 31, 2012, 50 percent by 2014, 60 percent by 2016, 70 percent by 2018, and 75 percent by 2020. In order to promote the production of renewable energy from solid waste, each megawatt-hour produced by a waste-to-energy facility shall count as 1 ton of recycled material and shall be applied toward meeting the recycling goals. If a county creating renewable energy from solid waste implements and maintains a program to recycle at least 50 percent of trash by a means other than creating renewable energy, that county shall count 2 tons of recycled material for each megawatt-hour produced.

Turning Trash into Treasure

The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a story on entitled "Turning Trash into Treasure" about Covanta’s Delaware Valley waste-to-energy facility in Chester, PA. “This is where it ends, all the trash, waste, rubbish and garbage, the stinky effluvia of material abundance, the broken, unwanted, discarded relics of consumerism. It ends here, on the tipping floor of Covanta Energy’s trash-to-steam plant on the Delaware River in Chester, Pa.” The article does a great job of educating the public on how the area’s trash becomes energy.  It describes the tipping floor, the combustion process, metal recovery, steam production, and emissions control. The article notes that “trash is commonly viewed as a problem,” but waste-to-energy facilities “regard trash as treasure, a renewable source of sustainable energy.”

Power from Trash...

The New York Times published an op-ed by Norman Steisel and Ben Miller which states that waste-to-energy is "the only responsible way for the city to manage its waste."  Steisel was New York City sanitation commissioner from 1978 to 1986 and Benjamin Miller is the the author of “Fat of the Land: Garbage in New York, the Last Two Hundred Years,” and the Sanitation Department’s director of policy planning from 1989 to 1992.  Steisel and Miller note that New York City sends "every pound of nonrecycled municipally collected trash out of the city.[...]If all of the city’s nonrecycled waste were sent to local energy recovery facilities instead of distant landfills, the city would save diesel fuel and generate enough energy to supply 145,000 homes — thus avoiding the combustion of nearly three million barrels of oil to generate electricity."

Perham Minnesota breaks ground on WTE expansion

The Pope Douglas waste-to-energy facility in Alexandria, MN conducted a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new third combustor at the facility.  Pete Olmscheid, executive director of the facility, noted that the actual groundbreaking is expected to take place the first week in May and that currently, preliminary work is being done. The project is expected to cost $20 million.  The project is expected to be completed by the end of April next year, which is when testing on the third combustor will begin. By the 1st of June 2011, it should be up and running, said Olmscheid. Currently, the existing plant can handle up to 120 tons of municipal solid waste per day – two units each are capable of 60 tons of MSW per day. The new combustor will be big enough to handle 120 tons of MSW per day by itself, which would double the facility’s current load. The expansion will satisfy the needs of communities for the next 20 to 25 years – until 2030 to 2035. The expansion will add approximately 10 green jobs at the facility.

The New York Times Examines Waste-to-Energy in the US

Waste-to-energy featured in the major press on April 12 as Elisabeth Rosenthal published an 1,800 word article in the New York Times entitled, “Europe finds Clean Energy in Trash, but U.S. Lags.” The article was incredibly positive and helped debunk many of the myths associated with waste-to-energy. In the course of her investigation, the reporter visited waste-to-energy facilities in Denmark and synthesized much of the relevant information about the ability of waste-to-energy to manage trash responsibly, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and avoid greenhouse gases. Activists given the opportunity to comment in the article could merely muster the view that  “Incinerators are really the devil.”   The article did include one error when it suggested that no new waste-to-energy capacity is planned or under construction in the US.  ERC sent a letter explaining the status of the industry and discussing the new capacity that has been built, is under construction, or is planned.