Alachua County Doesn't Want To Waste Our Trash
Alachua County wants to turn our trash, into cash, for the local economy.
The state has issued a mandate that every county must recycle 75% of all trash by 2020. But Alachua County plans to meet that goal early, while accomplishing a few goals of their own.
The state's mandate is unfunded, leaving each county the responsibility of paying for a waste management overhaul. That's one reason why Alachua County is trying to turn the over 600 tons of trash produced by the county each day, into an economic engine.
Interim Assistant Director of Waste Management Sally Palmi said, "We sometimes use the expression "embrace zero waste." That's what we're looking for, zero waste in our community."
Palmi said Alachua County is recycling 42% of all trash collected right now. Which is ahead of most other counties in the state.
But with the current waste management system, they can't reach 75%.
Palmi said, "We have to not just grab all these commodities. The plastic, the glass, the paper, the cans...but we also need to grab the organic fraction of our waste. That's your food waste, that's soiled paper, soiled cardboard, wood waste."
A mountain of trash can actually be viewed as an untapped resource for energy and re-use. Palmi said, "There's hardly anything in our waste stream that doesn't have some value to it and that's what we're gonna do, we're going to maximize the value of what we'd normally throw away."
The county's plan is to modify the current transfer station, where trash is divided into recyclable materials and waste that goes to the landfill. To develop a more refined material recovery facility, where recyclables can be reproduced and sold. And then to utilize the residual organic waste that's left over.
Solid Waste Professional Engineer Ronald Bishop designed the proposed system. He described, "A bio-module in which no land filling will take place. The material will be processed, energy in the form of gas extracted, and then the remaining material will be processed into a soil amendment and therefore that whole system will be reusable."
The project will require an initial investment by the county, but once in place it should be self-sustaining. And Palmi said it will actually cost less over the long run, while providing environmental and economic advantages. She said, "This transformation of two facilities for solid waste will bring in some extra tipping fees to help supplement the county, it will also bring in green jobs for people in our community. And once we develop the Resource Recovery Park, we could have as many as 2 to 300 new jobs added to our community."
On December 14th, the Waste Management Department will present more information on the project to the Board of County Commissioners.
They hope to receive approval to start the design and permitting process at that time and to reach 75% recycling by 2016.
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