Saturday, December 8, 2012

Waste to Energy on Long Island

Dan Barbuto, one of my terrific Sustainability students at
Hofstra University is in charge of tours and education
at the Covanta waste to energy facility near campus.  Here
he is in the control room of the facility.
I had a most interesting tour yesterday of our local waste to energy facility in East Meadow, New York.  If you are not familiar with waste to energy, it is the process by which garbage is burned and turned into electrical energy.  The heat from the burning garbage creates steam, which turns turbines.

The company that runs our local plant is Covanta and they are the largest operator of waste to energy facilities in the U.S.  Many do not realize it, but waste to energy is the greenest option out there for dealing with garbage.  Putting it in a landfill creates methane gas which has a significantly higher climate impact than carbon dioxide.

Our local plant employs 84 people, most of whom are in the operations side of the plant.  They burn everything that comes into the plant and collect metals or other materials from the ash.  All of the material that enters the site is scanned for radiation.

Our local plant has constant emissions monitoring system and uses LN (low nitrogen) technology to collect nitrogen oxides.  According to Covanta, the plant running continuously for a year has fewer emissions than 10 diesel cars running continuously for the same time period.  And, the plant provides enough electricity for 75,000 homes.

If Long Island garbage is not burned in the waste to energy facility, it is shipped three hours to an upstate New York landfill.

Obviously, the best options are to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  But, turning your remaining waste to energy is the best current option for dealing with garbage on Long Island.  Covanta has 4 waste to energy plants on the island.  The one in East Meadow is the largest.

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