Recycling in Ocean City, Maryland

A unique means of landfill avoidance, metals recycling
and energy production.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s…Fuel Source

You may recall the old adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Well, in the case of Ocean City, one man’s trash is another man’s fuel source.

Ocean City currently holds a contract with Covanta 4Recovery, a leader in the field of solid waste management energy from waste facilities, for trucking and repurposing of the town’s Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). Locally, residents and visitors generate roughly 34,000 tons of MSW annually. Historically, the vast majority of that waste was landfilled in Worcester County’s central landfill, but that is no longer the case.

Several years ago, the town chose to part ways with the old fashion means of landfilling ones trash and instead chose to make beneficial reuse of the waste for electricity generation. The town still collects the MSW from all residents and businesses, however; once the trash is brought back to the solid waste transfer station, it is loaded in large tractor trailers and departs in route to the Energy Resource Recovery Facility, which is owned and operated by Covanta. That facility, which is located in Fairfax, VA, has an annual capacity of nearly 1 million tons of MSW.

At this facility MSW is used in lieu of fossil fuels to generate heat and produce steam. The steam is then used to turn turbines that produce electricity. On average, 670 Kilowatts of electricity are produced for every one ton of trash that is burned. In the case of the Fairfax County facility, that means they produce enough electricity to annually power 75,000 homes.

For those who fear the word “incinerator” by recalling environmental concerns of the 1960 and 70’s, with visions of toxic smoke spewing from the stacks, have no fear! This is not the case anymore. With the current regulatory oversight of such facilities via the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the individual States Department of Environments, the industry is now heavily regulated for emissions filtering, limits, and controls.

So that leaves some wondering, “What about the traditional means recycling?” and “Where does that fit into the overall concept of Energy From Waste?” Well, little do many realize that the entire Energy from Waste process also includes post incineration metals separation. At the Fairfax facility alone they recycle enough metal annually to build the equivalent of 20,000 automobiles.

Additionally, the town still recycles white goods, such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, as well as other miscellaneous metals, while also maintaining a used oil/anti-freeze recycling drop off. So, the next time you wonder where your trash is going, think about two main options. Is it is being landfilled, like most county and municipal governments OR your trash being repurposed as a fuel source to create electricity and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels?