North Hempstead signs $11M trash disposal deal with Covanta
Instead of dumping its rubbish to a backcountry landfill hundreds of miles away, North Hempstead’s rubbish will be incinerated in a Westbury incinerator for at least the next five years.
The city’s solid waste management agency has hired Covanta to transport and dispose of 140,000 tons of garbage for $ 82 per ton, or $ 11 million by 2021, said Michael Kelly, executive director of the agency. The five-year contract provides for an annual fee increase of 1.75% and came into effect on January 1st.
Officials from Covanta and the city said moving garbage to a waste incineration plant reduced the amount of methane produced at a landfill, as well as truck traffic and the resulting emissions.
“Everything we put out on the roadside has an impact on the environment. And it’s about minimizing that impact,” said Michael Van Brunt, Covanta’s senior director of sustainability, identifying a hierarchy of waste management options. “Our biggest advantage … is our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to landfill.”
Critics say that incinerators emit air pollutants like mercury, lead, and dioxins, and that incinerating garbage is not an environmentally friendly way to get rid of waste.
“We think that shutting down the incinerator, developing zero waste plans, implementing better recycling … and composting infrastructure and corporate responsibility plans are a much better way to deal with our waste in the long term than to burn him, “said Adrienne Perovich, assistant director of research and scholarships at the New School’s Tishman Environment and Design Center in New York City.
Covanta officials say waste incineration plants are cleaner and more sophisticated than facilities in the past, and emissions from the Westbury plant are well below federal regulations.
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Van Brunt also pointed out the relatively small percentages the facility contributes to air emissions in the Nassau county compared to other polluting sources such as vehicles or the use of commercial and industrial fuel.
“We are making a very small contribution to local air quality concerns,” he said.
Covanta is headquartered in Morristown, New Jersey. Covanta says the company has four facilities on Long Island that burn 1.6 million tonnes of trash annually, which is 65% of the estimated 2.4 million tonnes of municipal waste generated on the island after recycling.
The Westbury plant, which opened in 1989, burns 1 million tons of waste per year and generates 80 megawatts of electricity – enough to supply 55,400 households with electricity per year.
For decades, if not centuries, garbage disposal has been a tricky business.
“There’s no free lunch here,” said David Tonjes, a research fellow at Stony Brook University who deals with waste disposal. “… Over the past decade, there has been a growing sentiment that the governments of Long Island can be better served by disposing of garbage on Long Island than by transporting Long Island for environmental and transport reasons.”
In addition to the environmental impact, according to Tonjes, costs also play a role in waste disposal decisions.
In North Hempstead, Kelly said the city is paying a 3% annual increase over its previous contract with Seneca Meadows Inc. of the State of Waterloo. The new contract with lower increases is the “cheapest option” for the city.