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Waste to energy

Post in 'The Green Room' started by begreen, May 15, 2011.

  1. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I am wondering how many people here live in communities that have implemented waste to energy systems to deal with solid waste? Our large, county landfill is going to reach capacity in about 4 years and the alternative of shipping it out of county is expensive. In Denmark, the way they deal with trash is significantly different. They recycle aggressively and use waste for fuel. But due in large part to nimbyism and hyper-environmentalists that want no solid waste generated by society, there are very few of these plants here. Is your community one of them or considering this? How has it worked out?

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  2. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Back around 1990 our county was going to build a waste to energy incinerator. Bought the land and then before they could float the bond issue the Supreme Court ruled that “flow control†ordinances (mandating that solid waste be delivered to a particular landfill) were unconstitutional so the economic geography of waste management expanded quickly. Private companies saw an opportunity to open new landfills that met Federal pollution control mandates and were less expensive to operate than the smaller county facilities.

    We have a central government owned and managed landfill but the site that would have housed the incinerator was used as a transfer station instead and then was sold to a company as the site for a natural gas power plant.

    Three adjoining counties have waste to energy incinerators. We trade some trash to them for yard waste for our mulch operation.
  3. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    Here is a link to the plant in my city. I was much younger at the time the plant was built but I recall that there would be a cheaper dumping fee per ton for the city permitting the plant to be built. The ash is put into a landfill on-site that I believe is rubber lined. The hill has grown over the years.

    Our city has greatly improved its' recycling program over the past few years. I just can't understand why recycling was not started aggressively 20 years ago. We as Americans need to get aggressive to find solutions or implement programs to reduce waste instead of creating more. Not that I'm for government telling us everything that we have to do, but recycling should be something that needs to be done.

    http://www.covantaenergy.com/en/list-of-facilities/covanta-haverhill/covanta-haverhill-detailed.aspx
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    It seems crazy with the centralizing of mega-landfills, managed privately, that we are not turning them into regional power centers.

    We're fortunate in recycling to have one of the earliest and largest urban recycling programs in Seattle. They started doing this in the early 1980's by making it convenient and raised the trash bills as persuasion to recycle. They have continued to expand and improve the program and it works.
  5. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I was a NIMBY big time after that incinerator plan fell apart. Because they projected that without it they would need a new landfill site and that the best choice was across the road from my new house.

    They finally decided that the old landfill two and a half miles away could be doubled in size more economically.
  6. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    It seems like many of the green movements start on the left coast and eventually work their way eastward.

    They are still trying to put up the "Cape Wind Project" out here. Kudos on the long-running recycling program. Recycling is money to cities and towns, residents just have to get there butts in gear and get on board. I just wish some of the green movements would take hold out here.

    Some local communities that have a "pay as you throw" system have full recycling bins at the curb and one or two "paid" bags ready for pickup. I'm for it, except I am already paying taxes for trash pick-up, so I don't want to pay another fee for bags.
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    We're not all golden. Bottling companies have successfully lobbied for years against in store collection of bottles and cans in grocery stores. The fear they spread is that it would be unsanitary. Nonsense, but true. And so we have no return fee attached to the bottle or can. And without incentives, many folks just toss em.
  8. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    We have the MA. bottle bill. Five cents tax on bottles, can be returned at just about anywhere. The local stores have redemption machines that look like a Coke machine. Feed the cans or bottles in the respective machine, the bar code is scanned and the bottle is crushed and cans are shredded. A voucher is then printed for redemption at the courtesy desk. These units are at the front of the stores as soon as you walk in. The shredded bottles go into a plastic bag within the machine. I see more contamination in the meat cooler chest when the foam chicken liver containers drip on the meat packages below. :sick: "Don't take the chicken if the package is a stickin'".

    It is funny that we have the bottle bill and I believe more bottles are recycled and tossed than redeemed. Although on recycling days, pick-up trucks drive around with guys filling the back with nickel botles. Recycling waste haulers really don't like this with the loss of revenue in the aluminum and glass.




    http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/reduce/bbillcon.htm
  9. midwestcoast

    midwestcoast Minister of Fire

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    Never have lived near a waste incinerator. As far as I've read they are at the point now where they can actually get reasonably low emissions so long as appropriate standards are enforced (as opposed to the nightmare emissions of earlier incinerators).
    IMO we should use them after implementing better diversion programs. Chicago's recycling program for instance, is getting better these days, but was basically a complete joke up to just a couple years ago (blue bags in a combined waste stream... very low real recycling rates) & I bet there are many smaller cities out there not doing much better.
    The mostly rural municipality in Ontario where I'm from has had green-bin pick-up (for compost) for about 10 years now, but no-one is even talking about it around here yet.
    I pay the same monthly bill for garbage pick-up for my 1/2 bag as any neighbour who made say 6 bags/week would. Of course it used to be covered by our property taxes, but that's a whole nother story......
    Doubling the diversion rate for household trash isn't difficult at all: Kitchen Waste pick-up, recycling pick-up more frequent than garbage, sell bag tags for more than X number of bags per person per week. Well implemented these steps alone could get us to 2/3rds diversion rate and have done so in many places. Waste to energy looks like a pretty good solution for the higher-hanging fruit.
  10. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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  11. woodchip

    woodchip Minister of Fire

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    New Zealand has also invested a lot of waste to energy plants around the country.

    We have been slow to catch on here, as nimby types are horrified at "burning" waste and have put out horror stories in the past.

    Modern operations have very efficient systems which clean the emissions very thoroughly.

    I like the idea as you get power from waste, and it is a lot quicker and easier to get rid of waste than fiddle about trying to bury it in holes in the ground.

    And think of the bonus, you are getting power, something you cannot guarantee from a wind farm on a windless day, or a solar energy plant in the middle of winter during a long cold night :)
  12. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    Solar,
    I like the website for waste food. We have reduced our trash to the curb by composting. It does make a difference.
  13. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    The end product is nice as well. I put somewhere between 15 and 20 yards of it on our upper garden terrace this year.
  14. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Our waste food goes into the woods. I have never had the slightest desire to know what eats it.
  15. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    15 - 20 yards, Jiminy Crickets. I thought I was doing good with a few wheelbarrows full for the whole year.
  16. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    We have our waste down to 12 garbage cans a year. It would be lower, but there is no recycling program for the virgin vinyl bags that compost comes in yet. This used to really bug me when we had the pellet stove. Turns out the nearest place was about 90 miles south!
  18. Jack22

    Jack22 New Member

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    I have a trash burning plant in my town. It is owned by a company called Covanta. I believe my township pays to drop their trash there and then the plant makes money by producing electric. I used to work at a power plant that burns methane. It was an active landfill with a methane gas collection system under it. We would pull the gas from the landfill, burn it in a boiler to produce steam and then power a 10 MW steam turbine generator. A small operation but I found it to be very interesting.
  19. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Gotta more trash bags than that. But after the two warehouses collapsed under the snow load last year I recycled a little over a hundred and twenty thousand dollars worth of new telcom and computer cable inventory through a recycler for $2,800. I hope that buys me a place in green heaven.
  20. jimbom

    jimbom Combustion Analyzer

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    Thirty years ago in Japan, we put different recycle categories out each day of the week it seemed. You didn't leave them in front of your house. They were placed at the corner with the neighbors. Different corners for some days.

    This is a three minute video. 34 seconds in, you will see a list of the categories and the days scheduled for each category. It is every bit as complicated as it looks.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybvTjjbHiVE

    God help you if you put dry cloth rags out on the day leather was on the list. Or wet garbage when it was sneakers and flip-flops day. They were very nice about it, but insisted things be proper.
  21. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    Locally the town I live in has been successfully running a waste to energy plant since 1979.

    http://www.gbbinc.com/projects/pittsfield.shtml

    They burn trash and make steam which is sold to the nearby Crane Papermill (where all the paper for your money is made).
  22. dougstove

    dougstove Member

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    My region does green (compostable + landfill) vs. blue (recyclable) garbage. The trucks are divided into 2 compartments. There is a sorting station where magnets, sifters and people separate different streams.
    We get about 85% compliance with the voluntary initial domestic sorting, which is simple.
    I lived next to a waste-to-energy plant in Sweden that generated local steam for a neighbourhood of about 10,000 people. It worked, but it meant that the paper goods were not recycled, because they needed them to keep the burn going well.

    A problem with bag tags etc. is they can provoke random dumping of garbage in ditches etc.
    I think deposits and self-sorting is a better way to go.

    My house 'green' compostable/landfill stream is now 1 small bag per week, because we compost kitchen scraps ourselves.
    But our 'blue' recyclable stream is big, largely because the milk companies lobbied against having their containers have a deposit.
    So milk containers go to the landfill but identical wax cardboard juice containers are recyclable. Disgusting.
  23. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    The early waste to energy plants in the US were pretty dirty and a lot of them are still running so they have given the technology a bad reputation and many states and regions have outlawed them. The technology and the regulations have imporved substantially but there is still a "Not in my backyard" mentality in many areas. There are new govenment air standards that are mandatory for both existing and new plants that will make the plants burn really clean. One downside is that the cost to build the plants are very high compared to other generation tecnologies, generally the electric power has to be subsidized to make it competitive with new natrual gas generation. The increased amount of recycling has also impacted the plants economics as many of the high btu value components of the fuel are caught before they are burned.
  24. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Yes you did. The regional incinerator is in Rochester (just over the bridge past Wareham) and serves all of Cape Cod except Bourne. Most of the trash from the Cape goes to Rochester by train, from centalized public transfer stations. I can't remember the exact electrical capacity, but it is in mega-watts.
  25. dougstove

    dougstove Member

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    I think an honest industrial ecology analyses is needed, case-by-case, since in some regions the energy value of scrap paper is probably higher than the true recycled value of the scrap paper.
    If the wood cellulose takes a detour through paper on its way to energy, it works out to:
    biomass ->paper -> energy; instead of biomass -> energy.

    I also strongly suspect that neighbourhood or institutional heat plants would be a better way to salvage the energy content of waste, as opposed to steam turbines for electricity. But neighbourhood heat plants need up-front planning to work and would be expensive to retro-fit to existing neighbourhoods.

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