By Paul Gable
(Ed. Note – This is the second in a series of articles on the Horry County Solid Waste Authority and its waste stream disposal.)
Diverting the waste stream from the HCSWA landfill was the primary directive of Horry County Council when it passed the ordinance creating the solid waste authority over 24 years ago.
For most of the intervening period, this directive was given less than full attention as a succession of HCSWA board members and senior staff pursued personal, selfish agendas.
To its credit, the HCSWA has been successful in more recently developing a recycling agenda that may now divert as much as 50% of the county’s total solid waste stream from the landfill.
A portion of this diversion can be credited to the removal of construction and demolition (C&D) debris from the restrictions of the Horry County flow control ordinance allowing some of that type of waste to leave the county.
The simplest and most effective means of diverting waste from the HCSWA landfill is to allow waste to leave the county for disposal. This method is currently cheaper for C&D, but would cost more for disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) or what we generally think of as garbage.
Recently, however, according to a number of sources, diverting waste from being buried in the landfill has taken on a new priority among county and municipal officials. This has coincided with attempts by a startup company called RePower South to obtain 25-year rights to the Horry County MSW stream.
On October 22, 2013, the three principal partners of RePower South conducted an approximately 90 minute question and answer session with members of the Diversion Program Committee and other HCSWA officials. The purpose of the session was to describe RePower South’s waste to energy process and to pitch building “a long-term partnership with Horry County” for use of the county’s MSW waste stream to get the process into production.
During the discussion, RePower South claimed it could divert approximately 70% of the Horry County MSW waste stream from the landfill, part in recyclable sales and part in energy pellet production for use at coal fired electricity generating plants.
At the November 26, 2013 meeting of the HCSWA board, it was agreed that the authority would prepare an RFQ (request for quote) for an independent third-party review of the RePower South process including a recommendation for or against HCSWA participation.
According to several sources with knowledge of the talks between the HCSWA and RePower South, the proposed third-party review has not been conducted to date.
According to those sources, the HCSWA is planning to spend the next year having an independent consultant analyzing the specifics of the Horry County waste stream. Early next year, the HCSWA is expected to issue an RFP (request for proposal) soliciting proposals from outside companies on waste stream diversion.
However, as similar talks between RePower South and Berkeley and Charleston counties have recently stalled, a new push for a deal is reportedly being made in Horry County.
This has led to calls for an immediate RFP to be issued by the HCSWA, according to several county and HCSWA sources.
Anyone who has followed my reporting on solid waste matters knows that I have been a severe critic of HCSWA policies and decisions for approximately 20 years. Over and over I have watched knee jerk reactions by the HCSWA result in poor decisions and wasteful spending.
However, in this instance, I am inclined to support the HCSWA timeline. A year determining just what is in our waste stream, especially determining what percentage it contains of restaurant and similar waste that cannot be used by a process such as RePower South’s, would be very beneficial knowledge before an RFP is issued.
The RFP must be broad enough to include all possible types of waste diversion, not restricted to an RFP that would be targeted at one type of process at the expense of others.
Several types of waste diversion are being practiced in locations around the country. More come on to the market every month, often by startup companies who do not have the staying power needed for long term commitments.
What must be ensured now is that this push for diversion is in the best interests of the citizens of Horry County and not just a means to again pursue various personal agendas.