Green, cost-conscious jurisdictions are using material recovery facilities as a 21st century environmental solution with economic, environmental and social benefits. Even cities that have not had a strong recycling tradition are beginning to invest in material recovery facilities as a way to divert more waste from disposal (landfills and incinerators).
In Montgomery, Alabama officials took action to increase the capture of recyclables beyond the 25% participation rate in the city’s curbside recycling program.
In July 2013 Montgomery broke ground on a new Infinitus Energy facility that now receives 85,000 tonnes of the municipal waste left after people recycle. IREP @ Montgomery, which is about 82,000 square feet, has created 100+ local green jobs, and diverts up to 80% of the waste from disposal. Montgomery is now targeting a diversion rate of 85% thanks to its commitment to material recovery. The next phase of the project, scheduled for 2015, includes a an anaerobic digestion facility.
Diverting tons of material away from landfills and incinerators and turning those materials into valuable resources generates a host of financial, environmental and societal returns.
– Mayor Todd Strange, City of Montgomery
San Jose, California has also moved to the material recovery model with tremendous results, setting a new standard for the recycling industry. Rather than focusing on disposal, San Jose views “waste” as a “resource”. Instead of a government funded waste management system, in San Jose private interests have built the largest material recovery facility in the world at the Newby Island Resource Recovery Park, able to process some 272,500 tonnes of material per year. Processing all of San Jose’s commercial waste and recyclables, the facility has tripled the city’s diversion rate to more than 75% on commercial material and over 90% on single stream material.
The investment in advanced waste processing facilities generates new green jobs… and once again demonstrates San Jose’s innovative leadership toward a sustainable future.
– Mayor Chuck Reed, City of San Jose
Athens Services built and now operates a MRF just outside of Los Angeles. The new facility processes 230,000 tonnes of waste per year.
The County of Santa Barbara in California is also proposing a resource recovery project. The community is committed to protecting air quality, and expressly rejected any proposals which depend on burning, or thermal destruction, including waste incinerators or gasification facilities.
The far-reaching benefits of advanced material recovery facilities continue to be recognized in a growing number of cities in North America and around the world, including:
- Sonoma County, California
- Sunnyvale, California
- Roseville, California
- Austin, Texas
- Delano, Minnesota
- Swindon, United Kingdom
- Sutton Courtenay, United Kingdom
- Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
This model can bring similar success to cities across Canada instead of government expenditures for increased disposal capacity. The priority remains recycling at the source, but this diversion option alone has limitations and material recovery facilities can provide a last pass at the waste to extract material not diverted by residents and businesses. These modern facilities can play a significant role in increasing overall recycling and reducing demand for disposal to a landfill or incinerator.