Much of the discussion centered on Indianapolis' decision to award a contract to Covanta Holding Corp. to build and operate the MRF. The waste-to-energy company already has a contact to incinerate the city's trash, and hopes to start moving dirt later this year for the construction of the mixed-waste processing facility. It will take about a year to construct before the site begins processing waste and recyclables.
Scott Holkeboer is vice president of client business management and sustainable solutions for Covanta, and his company took plenty of abuse from the some panel members who are against his company's contract with the city for the dirty MRF.
Holkeboer estimated that the new facility's recyclable stream will include about 15 to 16 percent plastics, and Covanta anticipates being able to capture about 80 percent of that total for recycling.
In terms of volume, Covanta figures to recycle about 15,000 tons of plastics from the facility each year, including 4,500 tons of PET, 3,300 tons of HDPE and 6,500 tons of PP and mixed plastics.
“There are a number of plastics folks we've talked to,” Holkeboer said. “There's a lot of interest in our product, and contamination does not seem to be an issue for these folks. Time will tell. Plastics is about the least of our worries. Paper is a concern. But plastics are not concerned about it all, coming up with a good product.”
Myles Cohen is president of Pratt Recycling, one of the largest paper recyclers in the country. He expressed grave concerns about the quality of the recycled paper that will come out of the facility due to the potential for contamination.
“I agree with Scott [Saunders], for plastics and for metals, it's a different story,” Cohen said. “But paper, it's different.”
John Barth, an at-large city councilman, and Carey Hamilton, executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition, were highly critical of the project.
“It will stop us from being a better recycling city rather than help us be a better recycling city,” said Barth, who also raised concerns about how the deal was struck.
“What we oppose is the stranglehold of municipal solid waste in Indianapolis,” Hamilton said. “There are two other clauses in this contract that also penalize source separated recycling in our community. In many ways our ability to improve source separated recycling in our community are completely hamstrung by this contract.”
But for KW's Saunders, the new product represents a potential new source of recycled plastics.
“We're open to new ideas. We approach this from a different point of view in the HDPE and PP market, raw materials are generally in short supply. In typical marketplaces, we're always looking for new supplies and growing streams. So we're open to new ideas more so in our segment of the business,” Saunders said.
“What we found over the years is the ‘dirty MRF' material has gotten a lot better,” said Saunders. His company is currently buying plastics from the Montgomery processing site. “We're not seeing any quality differences on the HDPE and PP coming from that facility compared to a source-separated facility.”