Burnt: how we trashed what made sense

by David Esrati on April 14, 2010

in big ideas for Dayton OH, Change the world, Montgomery County Ohio Issues

I should have Greg writing this post, but, I’ll spare you the three-week wait for the stilted writing :-)

Montgomery County used to burn our trash at two incinerators. Faced with option of investing more in scrubbers and clean-burn technology, we snuffed out the fire and turned the ovens into “waste transfer stations.” Now we pay to haul it there- and then haul it away again- to create a giant mountain of trash that spews methane (oft cited as a main cause of ozone layer depletion).

Of course, there is payola from waste haulers, landfill operators and the like involved (might be why Rhine McLin got $10K and Nan Whaley got $5,500 from a landfill developer in Westerville in the last election cycle).

In Europe, they are now not only burning trash to save the problems with landfills- they are generating energy from it- from the NYT article:

a vast energy plant that burns thousands of tons of household garbage and industrial waste, round the clock.

The Vestforbraending plant in Copenhagen, the largest of the 29 waste-to-energy plants in Denmark. Their use has reduced the country’s energy costs.

Far cleaner than conventional incinerators, this new type of plant converts local trash into heat and electricity. Dozens of filters catch pollutants, from mercury to dioxin, that would have emerged from its smokestack only a decade ago.

In that time, such plants have become both the mainstay of garbage disposal and a crucial fuel source across Denmark, from wealthy exurbs like Horsholm to Copenhagen’s downtown area. Their use has not only reduced the country’s energy costs and reliance on oil and gas, but also benefited the environment, diminishing the use of landfills and cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The plants run so cleanly that many times more dioxin is now released from home fireplaces and backyard barbecues than from incineration.

via Europe Finds Cleaner Energy Source by Burning Trash – NYTimes.com.

Of course someone comes up with problems: if you burn it- you must feed it- arguing that incineration cuts down recycling. The solution is really quite simple- you have two kinds of trash collection:

  1. trash which can’t be recycled- which people pay to dispose of
  2. recyclables: unlimited free pick up.

Paying by how much trash you generate is really a more democratic principle to begin with. Putting different rates on different types of trash makes it even more efficient. Wouldn’t it be nice to see all of Nan’s soon-to-be-demolished homes recycled or generating energy – instead of filling up landfills?

We can only keep shipping trash cost effectively as long as oil is cheap. Turning trash back into power used to seem like science fiction- but then again, take a look at your cell phone. It’s time to examine reopening our incinerators.

Here is the Dayton Grassroots Daily Show discussing this technology.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

David Esrati April 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm

and while we’re talking trash- we should be looking at ways to reduce all the trash-

here is a slick little video about how the shoe company, Puma- ditched the box for their shoes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwRulz8hPKI

Sometimes out of the box thinking is in the bag.

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Gene April 14, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I have been saying this for twenty plus years. Don’t start with trash (ie boxes.) It may hurt certain industries, but the price of most products will go down if we rethink packaging. Lower prices mean we have more green to buy important stuff, like………. alcohol. Or companies can save and create new jobs with their new found fortune. But then liberals will tax that to death to give to people who buy stuff with too much packaging. It never ends.

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Allison April 14, 2010 at 4:54 pm

An entire division of my company does this: http://veoliaes-wte.com/Home.  My division has a plant in Michigan that burns municipal garbage and turns it into steam, which is sold to the prison next door for energy.

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jstults April 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice to see all of Nan’s soon-to-be-demolished homes recycled or generating energy – instead of filling up landfills?

Are we really going to follow Detroit’s (and CronyCapitalist China’s) lead on this?  How far along are the plans to level our city?  Will we be shipping the undesirables out to the countryside too?
 
Check this out: Plasma Gasification

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Jeff of Louisville April 14, 2010 at 7:58 pm

The part of Dayton that is going to get the most demolitions is the FROC priority board area…Nan’s neighborhood.
 
 
I’m sort of wondering why we moved away from incineration and to land fills.  BTW, that big Bark Park north of town is built on the ash hill from the north incinerator.

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jstults April 14, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Ah, the fine folks at City Hall delivered, thanks for the search-able pdf!
 
Is this what you guys are talking abut?

Commissioner Whaley complimented the slide for providing clear and concise information on what the future holds for land banking in the City of Dayton.
[...]
Commissioner Whaley expressed her excitement over the House and Senate’s recent passage of Land Bank legislation, which she said gives municipalities extra tools to fight neighborhood deterioration.
March 31 Official Minutes

I’d really like to know what the future holds too, what was on the slide?

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Shortwest Rick April 14, 2010 at 8:35 pm
Shortwest Rick April 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Excuse me, shortage of suppliers in 1995 – work would have had to be completed by Nov ’97

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Shortwest Rick April 14, 2010 at 9:25 pm

oh sorry, here’s the text:

COUNTY DUMPS INCINERATOR PLAN
 

BYLINE:    Laura A. Bischoff DAYTON DAILY NEWS
DATE: September 22, 1995

 
 

* 1969-70: The two incinerators open at a cost of $11 million.

* 1985: A $40 million expansion and upgrade is performed on both incinerators to meet stricter air quality standards.

 
* 1993: The local solid waste plan calls for exploring the costs of complying with federal Clean Air Act requirements.

* 1994: Engineering consultants present plans for retrofitting the two incinerators.

* January 1995: Montgomery County and the Ohio EPA enter into a court consent decree, outlining deadlines for the county to either close the incinerators or upgrade them.

* March: Montgomery County decides to mothball the south incinerator, expand the south trash transfer station and upgrade the north incinerator.

* September: Montgomery County asks for a 90-day extension on deadlines because no bids were received on a portion of the incinerator improvement project. When the state granted only part of the request, county commissioners decided to scrap the $70 million project and close both incinerators by November 1997.

Montgomery County is scrapping a $70 million plan to rebuild its north garbage incinerator and will instead close it and start hauling 370,000 tons of trash to a Cincinnati-area landfill.
 
The about-face comes after the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency turned down a request to extend the deadlines on a project to upgrade the incinerator to meet federal clean air standards. The county was under a court consent decree to award contracts for the retrofit by the middle of this week. When no companies had bid on a large portion of the work, the county asked for a 90-day extension.
 
State officials agreed to extend deadlines for awarding contracts, but did not extend the Nov. 11, 1997, deadline to complete the work.
 
“We tried to be reasonable in our approach to this,” said Christopher Jones, chief of the attorney general’s environmental enforcement section.
 
County commissioners decided to close the incinerator – the longest-running incinerator in North America – saying they would be risking millions of dollars in fines if they couldn’t meet the final deadline.
 
Environmentalists long opposed to the incinerators rejoiced and called for a recycling push.
 
“It’s only a clear victory if something good comes from it beyond closing the incinerator, and that is reduction and recycling,” said Jane Forrest, southwest Ohio director for Ohio Citizen Action, an environmental and consumer group.
 
The decision signals the end to the troubled and expensive history of the county’s two incinerators – the north, which opened in 1969, and the south, which opened in 1970.
 
The county still has to pay off $33 million owed on the plants, and will lose $1.6 million in revenue from electricity sales generated from burning trash.
 
The county will mothball both incinerators, expand its trash transfer operation at the site of the south incinerator and send trash to a Rumpke Landfill in Hamilton County.
 
“I would say in the next three years, the average citizen won’t see a difference (in trash fees),” said James T. Dinneen, the county’s director of public works. “But the direction we are going in no longer allows us to control (costs). It will be a matter of what the market will bear.”
 
The county had planned to increase household disposal fees to $32 a year to pay for the incinerator upgrade. Now, the fee will remain at $27.50.
 
Even with the closing, commissioners said the county has no plans to build a landfill in Montgomery County. Trotwood Mayor Richard Haas, chairman of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, said public opposition is too great.
 
Three years remain on a five-year contract with Rumpke and the county has the option to renew it for five more years.
 
The county will begin shutting the north incinerator on Webster Street in Vandalia in March; the south incinerator on Springboro Pike in Moraine will be closed by Nov. 11, 1997.
 
About 100 county employees, who are paid $9 to $14 an hour, will likely lose their jobs.
 
The county has already spent $977,000 on plans to retrofit the north incinerator and expand the south transfer station, where local haulers would take trash destined for other disposal sites. Now, the transfer station will have to be expanded further.
 
Commissioners said the decision means the county will lose the control it now has over disposal costs because it owns the disposal operation. The county will be sending trucks 98 miles round-trip carrying 370,000 tons a year to Hamilton County.
 
Dinneen said the county will contract with a hauler to take most of the county’s trash to the Rumpke landfill, but that the county would continue to do some of the hauling itself.  “I feel we have to haul a certain portion or you are entirely at someone’s mercy,” he said.
Copyright, 1995, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.

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