November 2, 2007

Capturing energy from unrecycleable waste

Implementing new technologies to solve chronic problems is hard work. A generation filled with expectations of instant gratification is sure to be frustrated by the seemingly slow pace of change to correct obvious environmental challenges.

Take recycling for example. In the last twenty years we have made great strides to reduce, reuse and recycle trash from our waste streams as we hover around 50% diversion from landfills throughout major portions of California. And yet, with the simultaneous growth of volume of trash, we seem unable to reduce beyond that threshold.

Beginning in 2004 the County of Los Angeles engaged in a program to take a major leap forward in reducing the accumulation of seemingly unrecycleable waste that ends up going from county material recovery facilities (MRFs) to landfills. Their vision is to deploy emerging conversion technologies at the MRF that can cleanly reduce trash volume by as much as 85% without emitting toxins or greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As a substantial bonus, renewable bioenergy could be captured through the generation of green electricity and/or biofuels - depending on which specific technology is chosen.

A team of seasoned experts have just issued an evaluation report of their progress to date. Titled the Los Angeles County Conversion Technology Evaluation Report: Phase II - Assessment it details the thorough screening and evaluation of technologies from throughout the world - Israel, Japan, Europe, and the United States - that are competing for deployment at one of the county's best suited MRFs.

In recognition of the public's interest in the program's operations and environmental sustainability, public outreach programs and state regulatory reform efforts are already underway. A decision on the final site and technology to be funded will be made in early 2008. In view of the environmental costs of doing nothing and the painstaking efforts the Department of Public Works and allied agencies are making to deploy a solution that is in the best interest of all stakeholders, the decision by the parties involved in this effort is certain to be one that deserves public support.

Below is the latest (October 31, 2007) press release on the report.

County report finds viable conversion technologies to tackle Southern California's looming trash problem

Los Angeles - 36,000 tons per day! That's how much trash is deposited into landfills on a daily basis from Los Angeles County. Within a few short years, many of those landfills will be reaching capacity. This includes the Puente Hills Landfill, currently the largest operating landfill in the United States, which will close in 2013. That leaves Los Angeles with one very large problem.

After years of exhaustive research and evaluation of conversion technology facilities from around the world, the County of Los Angeles has announced the official release of a report summarizing its findings and outlining the next steps in its conversion technology program. In the next year, the County will select one or more projects to be among the first commercial-scale demonstration facilities in the United States, laying the groundwork for a fundamental shift in how the region deals with its garbage.

"Los Angeles County is promoting cutting edge technologies that have been proven effective in Japan, Israel and Europe. Trash doesn't have to be a problem, it can be a resource for clean energy and other marketable products," stated Paul Alva, chair of the County's Alternative Technology Advisory Subcommittee.

Conversion technologies encompass a variety of advanced processes that convert normal household trash into renewable energy, biofuels and useful products. These technologies provide an alternative to landfills by offering a clean and safe way to turn residual trash (which cannot be recycled economically) into a valuable resource.

"Through first hand evaluations of operational facilities in Europe, Israel, and Japan, we have found that conversion technologies are viable and environmentally friendly means of managing our solid waste," said Alva. "These technologies offer real solutions to California's waste and energy crises."

The report identifies four viable technologies that are capable of managing Southern California's residual waste in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner. In addition, the report identifies four recycling facilities where a conversion technology facility could be co-located. The County will request that these "short-listed" technology developers and recycling facilities form partnerships and submit formal proposals to be among the first commercial-scale conversion technology demonstration facilities in the United States. Early next year, a competitive bid process will determine which project will receive the County's support. A final decision will be announced by mid-2008.

The technology finalists are: Arrow Ecology (anaerobic digestion); International Environmental Solutions (pyrolysis); Interstate Waste Technologies (gasification); and Ntech Environmental (gasification). The site finalists are: Del Norte Regional Recycling and Transfer Station (Oxnard); Perris MRF/Transfer Station (Perris); Rainbow Disposal (Huntington Beach); and Robert A. Nelson Transfer Station and MRF (Rubidoux).

In conjunction with the report's release, the County has launched a new and improved conversion technology Web site. The

The mission of the Southern California Conversion Technology Demonstration Project is to evaluate and promote the most promising conversion technologies from around the globe, and work with communities throughout the region to develop demonstration facilities that showcase the technical, economic and environmental viability and benefits of conversion technologies.

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J. kale said...

Mr Miller,
Love your posts and information. My question sir is what happened to Enviropel Energy in San Diego. I looked at their web site and they appear to be way behind. Is Arand failing to make good on the promise of green energy? Can you get an update on their progress towards helping to clean up my city. said...

Do you mean 'Envirepel'?