Maui Landfill Integrated Waste Conversion Energy Project

On March 24, 2014 three Maui Sierra Club directors met with Anaergia, the company who was awarded the contract for integrated waste conversion (to gas/energy pellets/recyclables/etc) at the Maui landfill.  This is a report on what was Anaergia told us.

Maui Sierra Club is still gathering information and running numbers so there my be more information forthcoming after we speak with the existing recyclers and see how this contract will impact them and how their future plans impact the numbers.  There are already indications that the numbers discussed below don’t consider the diversion of greenwaste and fats, oils and grease and that we might be paying tipping shortfall penalties on this contract.  More to come as we research and do number crunching.

Anaergia Meeting.

In attendance Sam Millington, a consultant and Karl Bossert from Anaergia, Lucienne deNaie, Karen Chun and Daniel Grantham from Sierra Club, Irene Bowie of Maui Tomorrow

Karen started out by saying that the Sierra Club’s policy on trash is first to reduce (by reducing packaging, discouraging disposable items etc), then reuse and next (3rd down the line) recycle.  She also pointed out that the Sierra Club policy is that energy pellets from trash should be burned with the same pollution controls as would be required by the trash contained in them and that we are morally responsible for the pollution ensuing if they are not.

Criticism of the contract not having the details nailed down can be explained by the County issuing an RFP that combined what Karen said were normally two phases: A contract to write the parameters and details, followed by a contract to fulfill the requirements identified in the first phase.  Anaergia indicated that the county simply asked for a bid on (Karen’s words) dealing with the trash in return for tipping fees, leaving the details to be worked out by Anaergia.

This explains why the plan has changed during the trash forums and why the plan is still changing.  Anaergia is adapting the plan based on community feedback (such as need for compost).  Anaergia says that the plant basics (materials separation, digester and energy pellets) remain the same.

The County is currently producing about 185,000 tons/year of trash although when there is a lot of construction we’d expect that to be higher.  Anaergia’s contract requires tipping fees be paid on at least 125,000 tons/year of trash.  However the contract does address one of our concerns which was that if we were able to reduce the amount of trash via reduction of sources, that number can go down in the following way.  If the amount drops below 125k tons/yr, the county must pay the tipping fees on the shortfall.  However that 125k tons/yr number is reset on a sliding 3 year average.  Thus if the county only produced 120K in each of 3 years, the 4th year would see the minimum set to 120k and in that year, no penalty tipping shortfall payment would have to be paid.  (simplified this explanation because the 3 year average would affect year 2 and 3 also)

Karl pointed out that the 125k minimum is substantially below the current 185k of trash being produced so that there would have to be a massive reduction in trash for this to even be an issue.

Thus there is less pressure for Maui to take trash from outside the county, one hopes.

Karl said, though that they will most likely design the plant to accommodate 200k tons/yr or more so they can meet future increases.

Anaergia would build a facility next to the landfill on land they purchase.  Trash trucks would enter the materials separation facility.  Anaergia would separate out the recyclables.  Metal via magnets, plastics via floating, hand sorting or optical separation, paper and cardboard most likely by hand sorting.  The blue bag source separation idea is not dead but didn’t seem to be in contention.

Greenwaste woiuld go to the composting operation – most likely EkoCompost, if they arrive at an agreement.  Other recyclables would go to our existing recycling companies or be shipped.  Currently the county pays recycling companies like Aloha tipping fees but it was unclear what effect this new plan would have on them.

Sewage sludge and other wet, digestible material that didn’t go to compost would go to the digester which would produce natural gas –  a minimum of 500 million BTUs per day.  The remainder after creating the natural gas would be useful for compost provided it did not contain landfill leachate.  Lucienne pointed out that the county denies that leachate goes into the sewage processing plant but at other times they have admitted that it does go into the sewage processing plant (where ELSE would it be going????)

Karen asked Anaergia to make a point of knowing whether the sludge they have to process is contaminated with landfill leachate since this could introduce toxics that make it unsuitable for compost. There was also discussion that organic farmers cannot use compost that is made from sewage sludge.

Other noninert materials including the sludge after digestion would be dewatered (and the water used in the floating separation) and formed into energy pellets.

Karen pointed out that it is unrealistic to think that HC&S will take the pellets in lieu of coal since they are already being investigated for their emissions violations and it is extremely unlikely that parent company A&B which is primarily a developer would invest the funds needed to upgrade the emissions controls.

Lucienne pointed out the Sierra Club is trying to move “Beyond Coal” not “replace coal”.

Medical, hazardous and construction waste is not accepted by the County landfill.  Tires are not currently taken but Karl talked about a recycling process for any tires found in the waste stream.

Karen suggested that the Sierra Club work to get a program to encourage local businesses to process recyclables like shredded tires for playground materials, plastic lumber (like Aloha used to make) and glassphalt (as used to be made here) and that this would be advantageous to all.

Once Anaergia has recycled, created natural gas, created pellets and compost, the remainder which is estimated to be about 20% of the waste stream is sent to the landfill and Anaergia pays tipping fee to the County.  Thus most likely the Landfill will last 5 times as long because it will be taking in 1/5 the waste.

Right now only about 5% of the waste is recycled (by people bringing it to the centers)

Lucienne asked if we could have a system like Santa Cruz where reusable materials (concrete blocks, old bicycles, furniture etc) are separated out for people to take.  Currently this is prohibited at the County landfill.  Karl was understandably cautious but Karen pointed out that Anaergia could contract with an entity like Big Brothers Big Sisters to come and haul away these items for sale. Sam made a note to look into this.

Karl and Sam clarified that the state revenue bonds are different from the Superferry bonds in that they are sold by the company and guaranteed by the company’s revenue without the State or County being on the hook to make up any default. It is still an open question what the amount of the bonds will be.  The bill before the legislature has $50,000,000 as the number.

Karl said that they would probably sell the natural gas to Hawaii gas company to transport, pipe or whatever.   They couldn’t quantify how much energy pellets they’d produce as it depends on how much they can recycle and compost.

Dr. Andrew Bennek (PhD Chem E) is head of the company. Previously created Zenon that developed the sewage filtering process in use around the world and sold business to GE so Anaergia is privately held company.

People who hauled their trash to the landfill themselves would probably dump into county containers which would then go to Anaergia and be counted in the tipping fees the County pays them.

Anaergia said that top guys would most likely be initially from the mainland but that they intend to hire mostly local and train and promote local.  The contract runs 20 years.

Why not do source separation?  County claims it is too expensive to do 3 or 4 can collection

All the materials (recyclables, gas, pellets) are the responsibility of Anaergia to find takers/buyers for.  They suggested the Oahu coal plant might take energy pellets and that if not, that shipping to Asia or the Mainland is cheap because their ships deliver here and go back empty so the carbon footprint is lower than one would think and the rates are lower too.

Karl also made the point (when Karen expressed concern about energy pellet emissions) that replacing coal even with something that wasn’t 100% without emissions (Karen’s categorization) would stop the mountaintop removal and other problems associated with coal.

Karl says they are considering doing an EIS although he does not feel that there are any triggers in the project that would require one.  He’ll have a decision on this later.s a

UPDATE:  Anaergia has announced that it will do an EIS.  They have also provided this additional information:

(per Anaergia)

Fees ($ per ton) paid to MRRF (Anaergia) by the County of Maui

$28 green waste
$68 construction & demolition waste
$68 municipal solid waste
$76 sewage sludge
$100 FOG -County collected.  But reality here is that is PBT collects the overwhelming majority of FOG through the use of private haulers.

Also to note: the rate for processing recyclables is $100 per ton; however, it falls to $68 after 2250 tons/ in a given year.   In this case, recyclables are defined as those coming from drop boxes or curbside pickup.

Now going the other direction, so to speak, after processing, Anaergia estimates that approximately 15% to 20% of the material will be returned to Central Landfill.  This will be mostly consist of inert materials such as rocks, sand dirt, grit etc.


Fees MRRF/Anaergia pays to the County per ton of materials sent to the landfill

$71 residue
$68 unprocessible materials (e.g. appliances)

Note that there is no incentive for Anaergia to landfill any of the other materials listed above because they would be charged the same fee as MRRF receives from the County.  

For your second question, in terms of what may or may not be diverted before it gets to MRRF (thus impacting the conservative figure of 185K tons per year figure), it’s really hard to speculate what a private company may or may not do.  But if past history is a good predictor of future behavior, then the Waste Characterization study would indicate that it’s highly unlikely there will be any major reduction to a level near or below the 125K tons per year guaranteed minimum quantity in the contract.

For example, the County RFP lists the official figures for 2011 (tons per year) as:

  149,900 MSW
     25,400 Green Waste
    23,500 Sewage Sludge
     4,000 FOG
202,800 Total

Also, the Waste Characterization Study forecasts an amount of 148,479 tons of MSW for 2012 (compared to 149,900 of actual MSW in FY 2011). This combined with green waste, sewage sludge and County-collected FOG is once again well above the 125,000 threshold.  So, for example, even if 100% of the Green Waste or and County collected FOG got diverted, the total is still well above the 125,000 threshold. Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a breakout number for cardboard brought to landfill by private haulers–at least none that I could get a hold of in the County provided materials.

Talkin’ Trash Panels

Maui Sierra Club in concert with Sustainable Living Institute and Maui Recycling Group presented two symposia on trash disposal methods for Maui

The first panel featured Jeff Stark, Timonie Hood, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Zero Waste & Green Building coordinator for Region 9 (Pacific Southwest), Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM) Executive Director Dr. Jennifer Chirico and Kyle Ginoza, director of Environmental Management for Maui County and addressed recycling.

According to Dr. Chirico “On Maui, we generate 9 pounds of waste per person, per day–over twice the national average–largely due to tourism. They come here, they buy things, the goods often leave, but the packaging stays here.”  Rather than disposing of trash, she urged Maui to produce less trash by changing our view of consumption.

Kyle Ginoza indicated that the County contracted with Anageria Services Inc. to turn Maui trash into energy pellets with the idea of selling them to HC&S as a coal replacement.  Since the pellets would burn with toxic byproducts, concern was expressed as to HC&S’s ability and willingness to implement pollution control methods as their existing methods fall far short of ideal.  It was unclear whether HC&S was willing to buy the pellets.

In the second Talking Trash Panel, Mr. Ginoza indicated that the County had modified its plan to place an emphasis on recycling by striving for 85%, food and other organic waste being digested into gas and contaminated remainder either buried or turned into energy pellets.

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resource Defense Council strongly recommended that Maui go to the three-can trash method where users would separate recylables (glass, cans, plastic, cardboard etc), greenwaste and other trash.

Talkin’ Trash: Solid Waste Solutions for Maui

DATE: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
TIME: 5:30 to 8:00 pm.
LOCATION: New science lecture hall (‘Ike Le’a building) at UHMC
Sierra Club Maui Group
Sustainable Living Institute of Maui

Panelists TBA

Moderated by Kainoa Horcajo
Light pupu and beverages will be served outside the facility from 5:30 to 6pm.
Community Information booths will also be part of the event.

FREE. All welcome.

What’s up with Maui Trash? Hear experts from Sierra Club, EPA and others talk about Maui’s potential for trash to energy, and the problems with private dumps. Will trash to energy kill recycling? Is trash to energy win-win? Get the facts so we can make an informed decision.