Near Orlando, Lake County Florida will be undergoing a great change next year when it comes to how their waste is handled. The Okahumpka garbage incinerator has been in operation since March of 1991 and operates on an Energy-From-Waste system that handles “two 264 ton-per-day waterwall furnaces” with a total capacity of 528 tons-per-day. This produces around at most 14.5 megawatts of energy generation from a single turbine generator (via Covanta Energy). When Lake County’s contract with Covanta expires, they will need to decide on a new way to handle all of the refuse that is currently being allotted to feed this incinerator on a daily basis. They are looking into an approach called sing-stream recycling.

This method of waste removal has its advantages and disadvantages, as all methods undoubtedly do. For the customer, it makes for an easier method of disposal. They have their own trash bin or dumpster that they can throw all of their recyclable refuse into instead of using multiple units. There is no more need to sort everything. Paper, plastic, glass and other materials are now all thrown into the same receptacle. This hopefully means that more people will get involved with the recycling effort and theoretically, more paper variants can be collected because waste that previously was not thought to be paper will now be included. The containers are usually large (due to the expanded array of waste) and may avoid the need for a dumpster rental if customers can dispose of items that would normally not fit into their recycling bins. This is not to suggest that there are not disadvantages, however.

While single-stream recycling may be easier for consumers, it means more effort for the companies that are handling the waste removal. This debris is not sorted as it used to be and therefore costs are raised because of the time and effort it takes to process and sort all of the recyclables. Also, while more paper is usually included, and therefore recycled, some of it can be contaminated which leads to a worse yield and reduced usefulness. These contaminated offerings would then most likely end up in a landfill and make the single-stream process less worthwhile in some regard when looking at the long-term picture. So it’s a question of whether the increased public recycling numbers are worth the higher cost to reuse these materials and the potential excess waste that is produced from the dumpster contents. These are all things members of the greater Orlando and surrounding areas must think of when the county decides on how to move forward after the contract with Covanta is finished.

The ending of said contract would not only open up opportunities for newer recycling methods (such as the potential single-stream approach) but also take a burden off of the county to keep consistently meeting the requirements outlined in the deal. Sure, energy is being produced, but since the early 90’s we have come up with more efficient ways to handle our waste disposal and it may be time to implement those in Lake County, Florida.

Picture Via johns refuse
Source Via Orlando Sentinal