June 9, 2008
New System Is Earning Money and Keeping Metals Out of County Landfill
In just a few months time, more than 300 tons of scrap metal has been removed from the county's solid waste stream and sold by the Department of Solid Waste, thanks to the new ferrous recovery system that was installed this winter at the Energy Recovery Facility on Route 481 in Volney.
Designed to remove metal from the incinerator ash, the system makes our solid waste disposal process more environmentally-friendly while generating revenue at the same time. Even with scrap metal prices at their lowest level in years, the system should pay for itself in 2 ½ to three years.
Here's how it works: Most of the household garbage generated in Oswego County ends up at the Energy Recovery Facility where it is burned at a very high temperature. The remaining ash is taken to the Bristol Hill Landfill on State Route 3 where it is covered and buried in a modern and securely-designed landfill.
Up until a few months ago, the ash contained chunks and pieces of scrap metal that had not been separated from garbage. The recovery system is based on simple physics. It uses three conveyor belts and a large drum-shaped electromagnet to remove pieces of ferrous metal, or iron-based materials, from the ash. The separated metal is released from the magnet and dropped into a pile. It is loaded into a storage area and eventually sold to a recycling vendor.
Engineers estimate that between 7 and 10 percent of the incinerator ash was composed of ferrous metals. The ERF generates about 25,000 tons of ash a year, including 1,800 to 2,000 tons of scrap metal. In the first two months of operation, 310 tons of ferrous material was recovered from the incinerator ash, generating more than $27,000 in revenue to the county.
The County Legislature approved funding for this project last year. The county has applied for a recycling project grant to pay for half of the $1 million cost from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. If the DEC grant is approved, the project will pay for itself in 2 ½ to three years.
The system benefits our environment and saves on costly landfill space. The recycled metals can be used to produce new steel products, saving valuable raw materials. The system is self-sustaining by generating revenue to offset the capital costs and ongoing facility operating expenses.
This is only one of many actions the County Legislature has taken over the last several months to enhance our recycling and solid waste programs. The new household hazardous materials disposal facility opened in May and remains open Wednesdays and Saturdays until the end of September. The Legislature has also invested money this year to make much-needed improvements to the county transfer stations and recycling drop-off centers. Last year, the Legislature amended the county solid waste law, making it easier for residents to recycle more household items.
All of these steps benefit our county and will protect our environment for generations to come. I appreciate the support of the Legislature, the county solid waste staff, and the citizens who make recycling an important part of their lifestyle.
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