Arizona Waste Facility to Turn Trash into Energy

on January 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM

San Francisco Leads Nation In Organized Drive To Compost City Waste

A new plant being built in Glendale, Arizona, promises to be the nation’s first landfill facility to transform waste into energy when it opens in April. The facility, located just a few miles west of the University of Phoenix Stadium, will create electricity through a process called pyrolytic gasification, a technology purchased from The Hoskinson Group.

The green technology will allow the plant’s Chicago-based owner, Vieste, to cook garbage at high temperatures in an oxygen-starved chamber which causes the release of gas and steam that can be converted into electricity.

This particular system will cook Glendale’s trash at temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature The Hoskinson Group says is hot enough to dispose of the waste and eliminate pathogens and pollutants. Vieste’s plant should be able to process about 800 tons of waste and generate up to 53 MW of energy every day.

Although the plant will help eliminate waste for the city and generate renewable energy, there are a number of people who aren’t thrilled about Glendale’s latest addition. Some people argue that the facility will only encourage people to waste more, instead of focusing on waste reduction and recycling.

Others argue that the process will degrade the area’s already poor air quality. However, the Maricopa County Department of Air Quality has said the facility will not be considered a major source of pollution. It has issued a permit allowing Vieste’s plant to release up to 90 tons of carbon monoxide and 92 tons of nitrogen oxide each year. According to the county, the plant would only be considered a major pollution source if it released more than 100 tons of any pollutant in a year.

Even with its permit, Vieste won’t start the pyrolytic gasification process immediately. The company plans to hold off on energy generation until it has found a company or utility to purchase its electricity output.

For now, Vieste will focus solely on sorting the city’s recyclables. Glendale only recycles items residents place in recycling bins and doesn’t currently sort through trash to ensure recyclable products aren’t piling up in the landfill.

Once the plant is operational, about two-thirds of the city’s trash will go straight to Vieste’s plant where it will be sorted. Screens will help sift through trash for paper, large recyclable products and cardboard, and large magnets will help pull metals from the trash. The plant’s employees will also go through the trash by hand to separate smaller recyclable products such as plastics or glass.

All told, Vieste expects to divert 26,000 tons of recyclable materials from Glendale’s landfill each year—more than double what the city currently recycles.

Though Vieste stands to make money through its energy production and recyclable sales, the facility should be a mutually beneficial endeavor. Vieste entered into a 30-year contract with the city for the lease of 6 acres at the landfill at $100,000 per year. In addition, the company will pay the city a $476,000 management fee that will increase by 0.5 percent every year.

Paul Batistelli is a copywriter for and freelances in the energy field for the promotion of a greener society and energy means. He works to raise awareness on ecological issues, energy dependency, and reducing carbon footprints. Follow him on twitter @PaulBatistelli