Kristin Smith

Kristin is a member of the Recycling Today staff.

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A step in the right direction

Editor's Focus

February 9, 2015
 

Kristin Smith

 

The state of Michigan is one step closer to amending its Clean Renewable and Energy Efficient Act, House Bill 2505, under which several forms of waste and waste conversion processes would be considered renewable energy sources.

The state’s House of Representatives passed a bill in early December 2014 which would allow processes such as gasification and pyrolysis to qualify for renewable energy credits. It also defines what types of waste feedstocks are considered biomass and the types of waste that can be used in waste conversion processes.

State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Mich., sponsor of the bill and chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee, remarked after the 63-46 vote, “The potential to completely convert nonrecyclable material into energy to power Michigan homes and businesses is one that cannot be ignored, especially as we look to compete in a national and international economy.”

Recent studies conducted by the Earth Engineering Center (EEC) of Columbia University and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) show the huge economic and energy generation benefits of converting nonrecycled plastics into oil, a majority of which now is landfilled.

The EEC study concluded all the landfilled waste in the U.S. could provide 12 percent of the country’s power needs, while the ACC study surmised the United States could support as many as 600 pyrolysis facilities converting plastics into about 6 billion gallons of gasoline.

If states are going to be able to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities available to them in waste conversion, then passing legislation like Michigan’s H.B. 5205 is a necessary first step toward paving their way.

Maryland passed a similar bill in 2011 which qualified waste to energy and refuse-derived fuel as part of the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio. After signing Senate Bill 690 into law, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley made a poignant statement that really captures the message the waste conversion industry should be sending:

“… the question is not whether waste-to-energy facilities are better for the environment than coal-fired generation or better for the environment than the landfilling of trash, but rather whether waste-to-energy facilities are better than the combination of coal and landfilling based on the best available science. The answer to that question is a qualified ‘yes.’”

The Michigan bill still has to pass the senate, but the Great Lakes State is on the right track and one that I hope we start to see more of from the state level. A copy of H.B. 5205 is available at www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2013-2014/bill engrossed/House/pdf/2013-HEBH-5205.pdf.


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