Waste Management Converting Trash to Energy
By Carl Kotala
Waste Management, which serves 20 million customers throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico – including Brevard County – is producing enough renewable energy to power 1.2 million homes with a goal of reaching 2 million by 2020.
“Where others see waste, we see opportunity,” said Amy Boyson, community affairs manager for Waste Management. “Whether it’s through recycling or creating energy from ordinary trash, we are working to create smarter solutions for what used to be considered waste. For us, the curbside is just the beginning.”
Recycling On the Rise
Brevard County has certainly shown it takes recycling seriously.
Recycling is up an amazing 140 percent since 2010. Some of that recent increase can be linked to replacing the old 18-gallon Single Stream Recycling bins with 64-gallon Single Stream Recycling carts which were distributed last year.
Boyson pointed to the latest recycling data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which shows Brevard is among nine counties with a recycling rate of 40 percent or higher, while the state itself has maintained at least a 30 percent rate for two consecutive years.
All of that recycling and trash produced by Waste Management’s municipal, commercial and industrial customers isn’t just taking up space. In fact, it is what helps the company produce more than twice the amount of renewable electricity than the entire U.S. solar industry.
“One of the ways we do this is by recovering the naturally occurring gas inside landfills to generate electricity, called landfill-gas-to-energy,” Boyson explained. “When most people think of renewable energy, they think of wind, solar and hydroelectric. However, there’s another source of energy that is created every day across the globe: trash.
“By the end of 2012, we operated over 138 beneficial-use landfill-gas projects, producing enough energy to power nearly 500,000 homes.”
Using the Cleanest Fuel
This will be a big year for Waste Management’s operations in Brevard County. The company will replace 45 of its diesel trucks with Compressed Natural Gas trucks, which is one of the cleanest fuels currently available for heavy-duty trucks.
The trucks will be fueled at the company’s on-site fueling station in Melbourne, and over the next 10 years, all of the collection equipment servicing the county will be converted to CNG. Every truck that is replaced reduces Waste Management’s diesel use by an average of 8,000 gallons a year, which simultaneously reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 22 metric tons.
Overall, Waste Management has more than 32,000 vehicles, including 2,000 natural gas-powered trucks.
Also on the horizon is the construction of a new 63,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art Single Stream Recycling center in Cocoa. The processing facility, which will open this summer, is the fifth one operated by Waste Management in Florida. It comes with a price tag of more than $10 million and will create 40 full-time jobs.
“The environment affects all aspects of our lives – from the air we breathe to the way we power our homes to the parklands in which we play,” Boyson said. “Waste Management is committed to helping provide renewable resources to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and to conserving and maintaining wetlands, wildlife habitats and green spaces for people’s enjoyment.”