The bags of garbage that residents put at the curb may soon be turning into something more than just landfill.
A Canadian biofuel company has entered into an agreement with Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority of Mississippi (TRSWMA) for taking the waste that is normally buried at the Pontotoc landfill, sorting it and turning much of it into ethanol fuel.
Amory Mayor Howard Boozer said the company, Enerkem Inc., signed a letter of intent with Three Rivers Solid Waste executive board, of which Boozer is a member, agreeing that Three Rivers would supply the company with about 189,000 tons of unsorted municipal solid waste per year for use as feedstock at the Pontotoc facility. The Pontotoc landfill serves Monroe, Calhoun, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties.
Plans call for Emerkem Mississippi Biofuels to build a biofuel plant near the Pontotoc landfill that would produce 20 million gallons per year of next-generation ethanol using a mix of feedstock comprised of wood residues from forest and agricultural operations, as well as urban biomass such as municipal garbage, construction and demolition debris and treated wood.
The company would also have a solid waste recycling and pre-treatment center where the municipal garbage would be sorted, with recyclables such as metals and plastics pulled out.
The total project would be about a $250 million investment. Enerkem will recycle and convert about 60 percent of the municipal garbage that is normally put into the Three Rivers landfill. Most of that would be turned into biofuel, with some items such as metals distributed to recycling processors.
The project is expected to create 150 direct and indirect jobs and to generate an additional 300 jobs during the construction and start-up phases.
Amory is one of the municipalities that is a member of the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority. The city’s solid waste is collected curbside and trucked to a transfer station on Highway 8. It is then transferred to the Three Rivers landfill in Pontotoc, with the city of Amory charged a “tipping” fee for the amount of solid waste it takes there for disposal.
Mayor Boozer said this would be a way for people to have their garbage recycled and yet for the city not to have to implement a costly curbside recycling program. “We have looked at recycling programs here several times and they have always been cost prohibitive,” Boozer said. The sorting of household waste into recyclables can also be a headache for residents and sanitation departments.
“This company would be recycling everything,” Boozer said. “When you put your bag of trash out, you would know that 60 percent of it would be reclaimed as a green fuel. Other parts of it would be sorted out for recycling also.”
Boozer said he did not expect the price residents currently pay for garbage pickup to be affected. However, it would prolong the life of the landfill that serves this region.
Enerkem’s president and CEO Vincent Chornet said they are pleased to be collaborating with Three Rivers on building an “unprecedented advanced biofuels project.”
“The project, our first in the United States, will leverage the expertise we’ve gained both at our large-scale pilot facility and at our first commercial plant,” Chornet said. “This project is unique in that it uses a mix of municipal solid waste – which has negative cost – and wood residues as feedstock, allowing Enerkem to acheive substantial commercial scale and favorable economics.”
To date, Three Rivers Solid Waste (TRSWMA) and Enerkem have signed a memorandum of intent and are negotiating final financial and contractual agreements.
Randy Kelly, executive director of Three Rivers Planning and Development, said the project will create “green jobs” and “contribute to the rural economy in northern Mississippi.” He said the best part is that it would allow major recycling to occur without additional cost to the citizens in the area. “This biofuels facility will also provide environmental benefits by transforming our municipal solid waste into a locally produced green fuel.”
Unlike first-generation biofuels, or agrofuels, which are produced from sugar-rich crops such as corn and sugar cane, Enerkem’s second-generation biofuels are produced from biomass and waste materials.
Enerkem: project to benefit region in following ways:
- By reducing greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding methane produced when waste is landfilled and by producing a green fuel that replaces petroleum
- By increasing recycling and reducing landfilling
- By developing a greener economy and creating green jobs
- By reducing imports and increasing energy independence by producing a green fuel locally
Chris Wilson/Monroe Journal