With the Atlantic County Utilities Authority landfill set to close in the next few years, officials are looking for a new way to deal with waste, particularly through emerging “waste conversion” technologies. New technologies available include processes that turn the waste into energy either through the combination of electricity and high temperatures in plasma gasification, or mechanical/biological treatment that sorts the waste, removes valuable materials and then converts the residue either through composting or conversion an anaerobic digestion process that leaves behind a waste-derived fuel. As part of the process, the remaining waste can be as little as a tenth of what now goes to landfill.
All of these new forms of turning waste into energy go beyond current methods, said Matt DeNafo, ACUA’s vice president of centralized maintenance and facility management. “You hear about wasting energy and think about incineration. That’s not really what waste conversion is today,” DeNafo said last week.
But first there are challenges to be overcome, such as obtaining permits and, more importantly, bringing down the cost of the new technology. “We can get the air permit, we can build the technology, the technology can work, but if it’s not cost effective and we can find a cheaper way to dispose of our waste, then there’s no point for us to do it,” DeNafo told the ACUA board on Sept. 15.