- Creating full time jobs for operation and maintenance of facilities – for the most part, salaried skilled positions with relatively high pay.
- Monies spent on waste disposal through WTE can be kept in the local economy whereas many communities choose to dispose of waste in remote regional landfills.
- Development of a WTE facility creates hundreds of construction jobs.
For example: Palm Beach County recently announced an expansion to an existing facility. The construction of a 3,000 ton per day unit will create employment for 325 onsite construction workers and up to 600 subcontractors. Once in operation, the facility will employ 60-70 full time workers.
The SWANA study also reports that the US’s 87 waste-to-energy facilities have a power generating capacity of nearly 2,700 MW – accounting for nearly 20 percent of all renewable electricity generation in the United States. And unlike wind or solar sources, WTE facilities can contribute 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, providing baseload renewable electrical power.
WTE is used extensively in areas of high population density. For example, in Japan, 80 percent of the municipal solid waste is incinerated generating nearly 1000 MW of electric power.
In addition to population density, the key is to integrate these facilities into coordinated waste management programs – making sure that recyclable materials are recovered first.
The ecomaine facilities in Portland are a great example of integration. Comprised of a 35,000 ton per year single stream recycling facility, a waste-to-energy plant, and a landfill operation ecomaine provides services to a 44 communities in southern Maine (representing a combined population of 335,000).
Laura M. Thompson, Phd, is director of sustainable development and technical marketing at Sappi Fine Paper North America. She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. and PhD in Paper Science from the Institute of Paper Science and Technology. Since 1995, she has held a variety of positions within the paper industry including R&D, mill environmental, product development for specialties and coated fine paper, and, most recently, sustainability. Since joining Sappi in 2006, Laura has quickly emerged as an industry leader in the field of sustainable development. This is reposted from The Environmental Quotient with permission from Sappi Fine Paper North America. For more information, please visit Sappi’s eQ Microsite. You can also follow @eQLauraThompson on Twitter.