Or made into pellets that could be sold as heating fuel?
Mainers have pulled newspapers, glass, cardboard and No. 2 plastics out of their trash for years, but the recycling rate remains stuck at about 40 percent. How much material would be eliminated from the waste stream and reused if that percentage were to rise? How much money could
The Municipal Review Committee, which is part owner of PERC, started looking for alternatives five years ago, and through a ton of research, it came up with the plan for the integrated solid waste and recycling facility.
In short, the Municipal Review Committee wants to get into the trash business. It is exploring the idea of financing a zero-sort recycling and trash-fed fuel processing and engineered fuels facility that would make ethanol or biogas from the food and dirty food containers that people throw away.
Money from trash
Most of what is thrown into a household trash can can be recycled, and the remaining biodegradable waste, with recent advances in enzyme technology, can be made into ethanol, compressed natural gas or, by another process, engineered fuel such as fibrous pellets, according to the Municipal Review Committee.
The key is getting the waste separated, especially discarded food products and other organic material.
"The material has been notoriously hard to recycle," Lounder said of biowaste.
Organic biowaste -- food, food-soiled containers, diapers, leaves, grass and plant trimmings -- makes up about 43 percent of what Mainers throw away, with paper accounting for 25 percent; plastics making up 13 percent; metals coming in at 3 percent and glass accounting for nearly 3 percent.
"If everything went through a processing line everything would be recycled,"
After the biodegradable waste is segregated, it's "washed thoroughly in an autoclave. From there, they take the materials and pulp it ... and then, take the pulp slurry and put it into a distilling process, and ethanol is derived out of that," Lounder said.
Any leftover fibrous materials that remain from the ethanol-making process can be made into pellets and sold for heating fuel. Municipal Review Committee members went to
"Low value solid materials that you can make a fuel product from -- that gives you a whole new level of revenue," Aronson said, calling the biowaste that is landfilled an untapped revenue stream.
"Diversion of organics from disposal remains the largest opportunity to reduce
The technology the Municipal Review Committee needs to make its plan work is already up and running in another part of the country.
Municipal Review Committee members visited an integrated demonstration plant in
"There are a lot of resources in trash that have been either burned or buried," Stuart-Paul said recently. He said that he came to realize, based on his brewing background, that there must be a better way.
"Being a brewer, I knew when you get sugars, you get booze and that is literally the 'Ah ha' moment," he said by phone. "I knew if we could get sugars from the natural waste, we could distill them and create an alternative fuel."
The plant in
"They're a very interesting vendor, but they're one of a number of vendors [the Municipal Review Committee is considering]," Aronson said. "We have to decide if the revenue is enough to pay for the capital investment and keep the tipping fees down."
No cost estimates for the approximately 80,000-square-foot processing facility and associated landfill have been provided by the Municipal Review Committee. Aronson said there will be a considerable investment, but the overall goal is to keep disposal costs at about what they are now for Municipal Review Committee members.
The group has already taken heat for the project in the communities of
Years ago, most communities had a town dump, but a state law passed to reduce the number of landfills to cut down on pollution has dropped the numbers to two state-owned, five municipal, two "ash" and one remaining commercial landfill.
All future landfills must get state approval, which means if the Municipal Review Committee project is to go forward, it must first get
"Our vision includes a system premised on self-reliance derived from appropriate ownership and control," the application states. "Our vision includes an economical system that does not rely on substantial, ongoing subsidies from the state or otherwise. Our vision includes facility components that can adapt over time to changes in waste generation and composition, and to changes in the markets for products derived from processed MSW. Finally, our vision sees change as an opportunity to improve our system."
(c)2014 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)
Visit the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) at www.bangordailynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services