Competitors Work to Reduce Landfill-Bound Waste

By KIERNAN DUNLOP/ecoRI News contributor

Trash is an inevitable part of our lives, and many of us work to minimize its impact. But despite these efforts, we still drag it to the curb each week, and after it’s taken away, we rarely think about its future.

In southeastern Massachusetts, however, two companies are vying for control of the region’s garbage.

Covanta SEMASS is an energy-from-waste facility that has contracts with 40 municipalities on the South Shore, but its contracts are expiring this year and New Bedford Waste Services, an offshoot of ABC Disposal Service Inc., is expected to be in on the bidding.

New Bedford Waste Services is working with WERC-2, a Bourne, Mass.-based company using trash to produce briquettes, which are used as an alternative to burning fossil fuels. The company claims its briquettes cut down on carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent to 22 percent and dramatically cut down on the emission of other harmful chemicals.

The company hopes this effort will show consumers its commitment to environmental protection. Michael Camara, CEO of ABC Disposal Service, was quoted in a Standard-Times story saying, “We feel this is the technology that's going to replace landfills and waste-energy plants. This is the future.”

Covanta said it welcomes the competition, noting that over the years several companies with new technologies, which they claimed to be the answer to disposing of waste in an environmentally sustainable manner, are no longer in business.

“We’re like the turtle in the turtle and the hare,” said Margretta Morris, Covanta’s vice president of material management. “Tried and true, doing what we can seven days a week.”

SEMASS processes 1.2 million tons of trash a year, shredding it so it can be burned for energy that powers the facility and some 75,000 homes. The Rochester, Mass., energy-from-waste facility also recovers about 50,000 tons of recyclable metals annually. The company has to send in quarterly reports to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and have to adhere to a strict limit on what the facility can emit.

“Our goal is always to be well below that limit,” facilities manger Mark Davis said. “We’re 60 to 90 percent below the limit, and operationally we work to reduce what’s coming out of the stack.”

New Bedford Waste Services’ Eco-Tac fuel briquettes, which were approved by the EPA as a non-hazardous and non-solid waste fuel, are just one of the disposal initiatives the company is working on.

In communities across the South Coast, New Bedford Waste Services and ABC Disposal are introducing a system that would supply households with two 95-gallon carts for trash and recycling. Those carts would be emptied by a truck that runs on natural gas instead of diesel. ABC Disposal has predicted that this system would increase the amount of recycling collected by some 30 percent.

This competition is good, as both sides are working on ways to keep waste out of landfills. In fact, both companies are emphasizing that they are the more environmentally friendly option for waste disposal.

SEMASS promotes how much better energy-from-waste facilities are than landfills. For every ton of municipal solid waste that ends up at such a facility instead of in a landfill, a ton of greenhouse-gas emissions is offset.