Waste News, October 9, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The garbage industry has begun a major campaign to re-define garbage as a renewable resource. If garbage were a renewable resource and a renewable source of energy, then making more garbage and more incinerators would become your patriotic duty. Bogus.]

By Joe Truini

It's the birth of a new partnership, and a new term, to boot.

Several waste industry groups, along with a professional and a governmental organization, have formed a loose coalition to promote recovering energy from waste, what they call waste-based energy.

The coalition wants to educate lawmakers and the public that waste provides a vast amount of resources to generate energy and that there is a distinction among the various technologies, said Ted Michaels, president of the Integrated Waste Services Association, which represents the waste-to-energy industry.

"To avoid some confusion, we wanted to make it clear that there was a whole universe of waste-based energy," he said. "Federal and state policy makers ought to look at developing a full range of incentives to encourage waste-based energy projects."

Such projects not only include burning waste to create electricity, or waste-to-energy, but other means of converting waste to energy, such as capturing landfill gas.

"The energy capacity available from solid waste is largely untapped," said John Skinner, executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America.

Joining SWANA and the ISWA in the partnership are the National Solid Wastes Management Association, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

But the coalition's efforts simply distract from real waste management and energy-saving solutions such as waste prevention, reduction and recycling, said Monica Wilson of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

And pushing waste-to-energy and landfill gas projects under the umbrella of renewable energy takes away from other sources such wind and solar power, Wilson said.

"It just sounds like an attempt to take advantage of America's growing concern over energy costs," she said. "I'd say these folks are trying to move us in the wrong direction."

But waste-based energy not only provides reliable and affordable energy, it also can lessen the cost of waste management services for cities, said Tom Cochran, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The coalition has not developed an action plan but will work with Congress, federal agencies, state governments and private companies to promote waste-based energy. Its goal is to increase incentives and investment in the industry.

"We are certainly interested in keeping our eyes open on the Hill for opportunities," Michaels said. "It's a matter of educating folks and letting them know that there is an awful lot of energy that can be tapped in the waste stream."

The nation's 89 waste-to-energy plants have total power generation capacity of nearly 2,700 megawatts, about 20 percent of all renewable energy.

Contact Waste News reporter Joe Truini at (330) 865-6166 or jtruini@crain.com