By Paul Gable
(Ed. Note – This is the first of a series of articles on the Horry County Solid Waste Authority and its waste stream disposal)
The HCSWA (Horry County Solid Waste Authority) solid waste stream is again a topic of discussion among officials in Horry County.
One year ago, the discussion was whether the Horry County flow control ordinance should be amended to eliminate construction and demolition (C&D) debris from restrictions.
The flow control ordinance mandated all solid waste generated within the county must be disposed of at the HCSWA landfill on Highway 90.
Now, the discussion has shifted to municipal solid waste (MSW), what we normally think of as garbage. As of this writing, MSW is still subject to the restrictions of the county’s flow control ordinance and is subject to disposal only as mandated by the HCSWA.
But, that may all change if RePower South, a company that exists virtually only on paper, gets its way from Horry County officials.
According to several sources familiar with the RePower South initiative, the company is looking to obtain a 25-year contractual guarantee from Horry County to the county’s MSW waste.
According to those sources, RePower South officials have already met with various Horry County municipal and county officials to make their sales pitch.
According to RePower South officials, the company has developed a process that mixes polymers and fibers recovered from MSW with other chemicals to produce fuel pellets that, when mixed with coal, reduces overall emissions from coal fired electricity generating plants.
RePower South proposes to build what is known in the solid waste trade as a dirty MRF (materials recovery facility) and fuel pellet production facility. In addition to recycling, RePower South would obtain polymers and fiber from the Horry County waste stream to produce its fuel pellets.
According to RePower South officials, approximately 70% of the Horry County MSW waste stream would be diverted from the landfill through its process.
According to RePower South officials, they are not interested in handling C&D waste, nor are they interested in handling restaurant food waste, a larger than normal percentage of the waste stream in this tourist oriented area.
There would still be a need for a landfill in Horry County even if an agreement is reached with RePower South.
However, this is a startup company that has never built or operated a MRF, has no contract to sell fuel pellets to any electricity generating company and has no history demonstrating it can live up to its claims.
According to sources familiar with the discussions, a 25-year guarantee of access to the Horry County waste stream would be used as collateral by RePower South to issue revenue bonds to build the facilities.
In essence, Horry County is being asked to guarantee bonds for a startup company with no history in the waste industry.
According to media reports, RePower South has made the same pitch to Charleston and Berkeley counties with decisions about entering into an agreement with RePower South on hold in both counties.
According to HCSWA estimates, its landfill has approximately 20 more years left, at current rates of waste disposal, before all Horry County waste will need to find some other means of disposal than burying at the Highway 90 location.
Waste diversion, rather than waste monopoly, should have been an ongoing process at the HCSWA since its inception over 23 years ago.
But, should the HCSWA be asked to essentially put all its eggs in one waste diversion basket with a startup company?
Should Horry County be asked to become the guinea pig financial backer so RePower South can test whether its theories can produce actual results in the real world of solid waste diversion?
Neither seems the best solution for a county that needs to find sustainable ways to divert waste from the HCSWA landfill.