Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Yard Waste: Pile It Higher and Deeper

Legislators have been getting an earful on the yard waste ban in New Castle County, which is part of the permit for the expansion of Cherry Island Landfill in Wilmington. In response to the complaints about the cost and inconvenience of the ban, Wayne Smith and six of his colleagues have introduced HB 1, which would reverse the ban and bar DNREC from enforcing that provision of the permit.

So where will the DSWA put the grass clippings? No sweat: We'll just raise the top of Cherry Island another six feet, and declare that it won't cost anything and won't shorten the useful life of the landfill. In other words, just pile it higher and deeper.
The sponsors of HB 1 assert that there is free capacity at Cherry Island that can be used to accommodate yard waste "at no additional cost and with no change in the date at which the landfill will reach full capacity." The fallacy in this argument is that there is no such thing as free landfill capacity. A landfill is a finite resource the use of which requires trade offs.
For instance, the additional capacity could be used to extend the life of Cherry Island, postponing the capital expense of siting and building a new landfill. How expensive will that be? The capital cost of raising the height of Cherry Island by 23 feet is $86 million. Recently the DSWA estimated the cost of a new landfill to be $106 million, a number that seems rather low to me.
As I wrote last year, financial analysis can quantify the present value of postponing a large expenditure, even one years in the future.
There are other, less tangible costs to HB 1. One would be the credibility and integrity of the permitting process. The DSWA's permit that allows the expansion of Cherry Island came at the end of a long and thorough hearing process that took a variety of points of view into consideration. The sponsors of HB 1 would simply toss that aside and ignore the concerns of Wilmington residents and proponents of recycling.
Another cost of HB 1 would be reputational; the General Assembly could hardly retain any claim to environmental leadership if they declared that the largest single category of recyclable material in the waste stream is permanently off limits. I didn't think this was possible, but the sponsors of HB 1 have managed to make the DSWA look positively progressive by comparison.
Fortunately, Reps. Diana McWilliams and Helene Keeley have proposed and amendment, HA 1 to HB 1, which would postpone the ban for five months while directing DNREC and the DSWA to find alternatives for handling yard waste. It's a sound problem-solving approach that mandates practical alternatives to alleviate the concerns of homeowners. HB 1 is expected to come up for a vote in the House tomorrow.
Update: Reps. McWilliams and Keeley, joined by Rep. Gerald Brady, have introduced HA 2, which is worded differently but would seem to have the same effect as HA 1.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking at the graph in the article, at the back of the landfill are wind generators. A nice idea for renewable energy but the project missing a much larger opportunity for another alterantive source - biomass - clean yard waste.

Clean yard waste is an energy commodty. Why bury it in a landfill? Convert into compost, ethenol, burn it as a fuel source to make energy. There are so many ways that it could be used one would question why any idea of piling it higher and deeper, leaving it in the city or starting another landfill seems to be a lack of foresight.

Cost a lot of money? Yes! With alternative energy money around, I think that grant writing is more useful than the shortsighted legislation purposed.


9:41 AM, January 24, 2007  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

This is precisely the point that Gerald Brady made when I spoke with him a few days ago, which is why he is supporting the proposed amendment.

If you agree, then call your state rep ASAP.
Republicans: 302-744-4391
Democrats: 302-744-4351

1:37 PM, January 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

degradable waste uses O2
in a landfill under palstic it is choked - no O2 - no degeradation

think about it, science guy

5:20 PM, January 25, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

at the back of the landfill are wind generators.

Can we run those windmills backward and blow all the odor into New Jersey?

10:53 AM, January 26, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home