By Al Barbarino
Commercial building owners could soon have a green alternative to disposing of their trash the old-fashioned way.
Mayor Bloomberg issued a Request for Proposals this week to build a state of the art facility to convert waste to clean energy using only the latest technologies. The facility will be built within 80 miles of New York City and would initially process a maximum of 450 tons of waste per day.
“We are using the most comprehensive sustainability program in the nation to green our city, but we have to go further,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement. “New Yorkers generate more than 10,000 tons of solid waste every day and too much of it ends up in landfills. Using less, and recycling more are the most effective ways to address the problem, but this project will help us determine if some of that waste can be converted to safe, clean energy to meet the city’s growing power needs.”
The city would pay the private operator a “per ton” processing fee for all residential city garbage processed and will not provide any capital funding for the facility. But the facility would likely gain additional revenue from commercial – and perhaps large residential building owners – who are responsible for disposing of their own trash.
“We have a number of commercial clients that we service at a number of facilities,” said James Regan, a spokesperson for Coventa Energy, the largest operator of waste-to-energy facilities in the world, with 41 facilities in North America. Coventa already processes some of the city’s garbage at their Essex County, plant in New Jersey.
When facilities are built, the company usually partners with a “host community,” a county or city that supplies the waste, Regan said. Additionally, they work with manufacturers, automakers and a range of private commercial clients throughout the country.
“It’s a big sustainability push to reduce, reuse and recycle as much waste as you can on a commercial scale,” Regan said.
Commercial owners would likely pay a premium to use the proposed facility, but it’s nothing new to companies that have already made a commitment to the environment.
“We’ve made the corporate decision to be as green as possible,” said Erica Schietinger, vice president of corporate communications at Chelsea Piers, an environmentally friendly 30-acre sports and entertainment complex located between 17th and 23rd Streets along the Hudson River.
The facility operates on 100 percent wind power, has a strict onsite recycling program, as well as a composter nicknamed “Bubba,” which breaks food waste using enzymes and filters the liquid through the sewage system, Scheitinger said.
While she said it was too early for her to comment on whether or not Chelsea Piers would ultimately use the new city facility if it is indeed built, she didn’t rule it out, adding, “Our decisions have not been based on saving money, they have been based on doing the right thing.”
The RFP specifically excludes “conventional incineration or mass burn proposals.” All of Coventa’s facilities employ a “mass burn” technique, which means the waste is burned in a combustion chamber to produce clean, renewable energy, but the Coventa spokesperson said that could change once the RFP lands on executives’ desks.
“We are the largest owner/operator of waste energy facilities in the world,” Regan said. “We provide solutions to clients, so I’m sure we’d look at it.”
Requests are due by June 5.
*this article appeared in the March 14, 2012 print edition of Real Estate Weekly