Waste Stream Diversion and the HCSWA
By Paul Gable
(Ed. Note – This is the fifth in a series of articles on the Horry County Solid Waste Authority and its waste stream disposal)
The HCSWA (Horry County Solid Waste Authority) will begin an intensified study of diversion of its waste stream in the upcoming fiscal year.
The first step in this study will be the inclusion of $50,000 in the HCSWA budget for a detailed study of the components of Horry County’s municipal solid waste (MSW) stream.
When that study is completed, it is anticipated the HCSWA will issue some type of request for companies interested in being involved in this diversion process to respond.
Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus has said he is interested in diverting as much of the Horry County waste stream from being buried in the HCSWA landfill as possible with consideration to overall cost of eventual proposals.
A portion of the Horry County waste stream, as much as 50% according to recent SCDHEC data, is already being diverted from burial at the landfill by recycling. Cost of diversion, based on the marginal improvement over this rate from new processes, is an obvious consideration for taxpayers.
HCSWA officials are planning a trip to Montgomery, Alabama in the near future to observe a materials recovery facility (MRF) that has operated for approximately one year. The MRF is owned and operated by Infinitus Energy under a 25-year contract with the City of Montgomery that includes certain guarantees from the city.
At the same time, a company called RePower South has been meeting with municipal and county officials in Horry County to advocate for its proposed diversion process of recycling and pelletization of a portion of the county’s MSW.
It should be noted that RePower South, a company that currently exists only on paper, has already made proposals to Charleston and Berkeley counties. According to sources with knowledge of those proposals, they are on hold at this time.
What percentage of the MSW stream can be diverted with the RePower South process can only be a broad estimate since the company has no operating plants anywhere in the country at this time.
The ultimate goal of the HCSWA is to save airspace at its landfill by diverting, through recycling and other means, as much of its waste stream as possible from being buried.
The RePower South proposal to secure the Horry County waste stream for a period of 25 years would not necessarily further this goal.
The RePower South plan, as described in presentations to Charleston and Berkeley counties, would take most of the municipal solid waste (MSW) to a recycling facility where it would be processed. Some types of MSW, such as restaurant waste, are not compatible with the recycling process.
Recyclables would be pulled out and sold and a portion of the remainder, some polymers and fibers, would be used to produce pellets that cut down on emissions at coal-fired power plants.
But, the RePower South plan presented in both Berkeley and Charleston counties included the option to bring in more waste from other counties as needed.
It should be noted that the recycling facility Infinitus Energy operates for the City of Montgomery also takes waste from Escambia County, FL. The extra waste is needed in order to make the facility profitable.
Since the Horry County MSW waste stream approximates the size of the Berkeley County waste stream and is smaller than the Charleston County waste stream, it is logical to expect out of county waste to come into Horry County to make the process viable.
Depending on just how much MSW must be brought into Horry County to make the overall process profitable, there may not be any appreciable saving of airspace at the Horry County landfill, since what remains of the waste stream after recycling and pelletization must be buried.
According to discussions this reporter has had with various city and county officials over the last several weeks, none are interested in bringing additional waste into Horry County and none are interested in using an untested process, such as the RePower South process, as an answer to waste stream diversion.
And, once the MSW decisions have been made, there still is the consideration of how to divert as much of the county’s construction and demolition debris (C&D) from burial at the landfill, which is not part of the RePower South process at all.