A new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Humes chastises us for our wasteful habits and examines whether waste is good for the economy. In his book, "Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash," the author discovers that trash is the biggest thing we make, our largest export and among our most expensive municipal services, exceeding that of fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries and schoolbooks.
He stands atop Los Angeles‘ 500-foot-tall Puente Hills landfill, which is taller than most of the city's high rises, and can see where the 7.1 pounds of trash per day each of us generates ends up and wonders "Isn't there a better way?" It ought to be easy, the biggest category of waste, more than 30% of what Americans buy but then immediately throw away, is packaging and containers. All of it is theoretically recyclable, but most of it ends up buried in landfills anyway...Read More »
Microsoft is researching the idea of locating its data centers near landfills and wastewater treatment plants from which they could generate their own power. A recent blog by Christian Belady, general manager of Data Center Services for Microsoft, outlined the company's vision of grid independent fuel cell powered data centers utilizing biogas as a fuel source. He notes that data centers require a consistent and very reliable power supply. To date, the industry strategy has been to employ a costly and complex array of equipment such as UPS, back-up generators, maintenance bypass circuits, power conditioning, etc. to assure the consistency. That equipment itself adds another source of failure. "Without a bold shift in strategy, our entire industry will become more dependent on a costly, antiquated, and constricted power grid," says Belady.
The solution he offers is to change where companies source energy for their facilities - and to relocate the data centers towards those sources. Biogas has the benefit of being 100 percent renewable. According to the blog, a biogas powered reciprocating engine will typically yield 30% efficiency, a turbine 40% and a fuel cell 60%. Moreover, fuel cells employ a clean electrochemical reaction that results in nearly zero emissions making it easier to secure air quality permits. Microsoft is now researching a small-scale experiment to measure the performance and benefits and is seeking a location to test a prototype, Belady said...Read More »
Battle lines over how and when coal ash should be regulated are being drawn as environmentalists are suing EPA to force a deadline while industry and some republicans are using a pending Senate bill to force a compromise. Earlier this month, activists sued EPA to force a deadline for issuing a long-delayed Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) ash rule. The agency proposed a rule in June 2010 to regulate ash as either hazardous waste subject to strict RCRA subtitle C controls, or less stringent subtitle D solid waste controls, but a final rule is not expected before the end of 2012. Industry and others, including some Republicans, are opposed to a hazardous waste rule which they believe would ruin the market for reusing ash in cement and other products. The House passed a bill H.R. 2273 that would block strict EPA regulation, leaving it to the states to regulate ash disposal as consistent with other non-hazardous wastes. However, the bill is seen as having slim chances in the Democratic Senate. Attempting an end-run, Rep. David McKinley (R-WY) successfully added the text of H.R. 2273 as an amendment to a massive transportation reauthorization bill which the House approved on April 18. However, the coal ash language is not in the Senate bill and environmentalists will want to keep it that way...Read More »
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from landfills have decreased by 27 percent since 1990, according to the EPA's just -released 17th Annual US Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report. That "demonstrates the significant progress made by the solid waste services industry," said the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) of the report. They attribute greater use of gas collection and destruction systems. Overall, the waste management services industry, which includes landfills, composting and incineration, accounted for just 1.8 percent of the total anthropogenic (man-made) GHG emissions. That equates to about 124 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2E), of which landfills alone account for 108 million tons of CO2E in 2010.
For the rest of the economy, total anthropogenic GHG emissions rose by 3.2 percent last year to 6,822 million tons CO2E. EPA attributed the increase to rising energy use in line with the general economic recovery. In 2010, electricity generation accounted for 34 percent of emissions, followed by transportation activity which accounts for 27 percent and emissions from industrial processes accounting for 20 percent. Overall emissions have increased by 10.5 percent from 1990 to 2010. Ironically, that makes landfills one of the few bright spots...Read More »
Organic waste to energy company Clean World Partners opened what it calls the nation's first commercial high-solid organic waste conversion facility at American River Packaging's Sacramento, CA headquarters. The Clean World system employs an anaerobic digestion technology developed at UC Davis to convert food waste, agricultural residue and other organic waste into renewable energy, fertilizer and soil enhancements. The system installed at ARP, which makes corrugated packaging products, will convert 7.5 tons per day of food waste from Campbell Soup and other regional food producers along with 0.5 tons of unrecyclable corrugated material from the packaging company into natural gas which will be used to generate about 1,300 kilowatts per day of renewable electricity, enough to meet 37 percent of ARP's electricity needs. Meanwhile, the plant will divert more than 2,900 tons of waste annually from landfills, and produce 1,000 tons of organic soil amendments per year for regional agricultural applications. Another larger 100-ton-per day Clean World system is under construction in Sacramento...Read More »
Waste Management of Illinois opened what it says is state's largest commercial compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling facility. The 57,000-square-foot facility near Chicago employs 55 "slow-fuel" stations to service the company's existing fleet of 30 CNG trucks which will soon to be expanded to 80. The slow-fill procedure improves efficiency. Each truck carries about 58 diesel equivalent gallons of CNG and can haul between five and eight tons of material, similar to traditional diesel trucks, for up to 12 hours. "We are rapidly transitioning to using clean-burning fuels like CNG in our collection vehicles in the Chicago area," said Steve Batchelor, Waste Management area vice president for Illinois and Indiana. "Our new Stickney CNG facility represents a substantial commitment that will allow us to independently support our growing CNG fleet in Chicago and across northeastern Illinois."
Last week, Waste Management CEO David Steiner spoke to Mad Money's Jim Cramer about the company's natural gas initiatives including plans to expand its fleet of CNG vehicles to 30,000 from its present number of 1,400. Consequently, he said 90 percent of new fleet purchases over the next five years will be for CNG vehicles...Read More »
Covanta Holding Corp. (Morristown, NJ) said its first quarter financial performance reflects the company's organic growth initiatives, operational improvements, higher prices paid for the materials it recycles and increased energy production at its waste-to-energy plants. Revenue for the quarter grew by 4 percent to $392 million from $377 million last year, exceeding of expectations. Consequently, the company's loss from continuing operations narrowed to $11 million from $14 million last year. However, absent income from discontinued operations last year, the company reported a net loss of $12 million or $0.09 per share, compared to net income of $133 million or $0.91 per share in the same quarter last year...Read More »
A partnership led by URS Corp. (San Francisco, CA) has won a $1.3 billion contract to manage and operate the Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, NM. The DOE awarded the five-year contract to Nuclear Waste Partnership, a new company formed by the URS Corporation and Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Group (Lynchburg, VA) with AREVA Federal Services (Bethesda, MD) as the major subcontractor. WIPP is an underground repository used for permanent disposal of TRU waste, which consists of materials such as tools, rags, protective clothing, sludge and soil contaminated with radioactive elements...Read More »
ReCommunity (Charlotte, NC) has opened a new $7.5 million single-stream recycling facility in Beacon, NY, 60 miles north of New York City. The 52,000 square-foot facility will process a host of recyclable materials collected from throughout the northeast, including the greater Hudson Valley and southwest Connecticut. The project was originally begun by Hudson Baylor which ReCommunity acquired last January. ReCommunity was formed in March 2011 by investment firms Pegasus Capital Advisors LP and Intersection LLC which purchased the non-core recycling assets spun-off by Casella Waste Systems (Rutland, VT) in a $134 million deal...Read More »
Stericycle, Inc. (Lake Forest, IL) reported first quarter net income that rose 16.5 percent to $64.9 million ($0.75 per share) from $55.7 million ($0.64 per share) last year. Earnings grew in line with revenue that rose by 15.6 percent to $460.1 million, marking the fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth that has averaged 16.4 percent year-over-year. Acquisitions remain a powerful engine of the medical waste company's strategy and contributed $41.0 million to the current period growth...Read More »
Advanced Disposal Services (Jacksonville, FL) has completed constructing a $4.5 million landfill gas-to-energy plant at its Wolf Creek landfill in Dry Branch, GA. The clean energy facility will generate enough electricity to power 1,650 area homes while avoiding the pollution equivalent of 22,700 passenger vehicles. Green Power EMC partnered in the procurement of the power which is being sold to Oconee EMC, a cooperative-owned energy provider...Read More »
Clean Harbors, Inc. (Norwell, MA) plans to announce first quarter financial results during a company hosted conference call on Wednesday, May 2 at 9 a.m. (Eastern)...Read More »