Converting Leftover “Fluff” From Developed Country Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) Into Energy
THE PROBLEM WE CAN SOLVE
Material Recovery Facilities (MRF’s) in Developed Countries play an important role in a community’s total waste management system, serving as the link between a community’s solid waste recycling collection program, the cost of waste collection, recycling and disposal, and what % of waste goes eventually to a community’s landfill.
MRFs include Municipal Solid Waste Transfer Stations, C&D transfer stations, single stream MRFs and traditional recycling centers.
Essentially and with a great deal of simplicity, here’s how it works: These MRFs receive waste, sort out the recyclable materials (scrap metal, plastics, etc) and send the leftovers to landfill. The leftover material is non-recyclable residual material and, within the industry it also is called “fluff.” After all is said and down, even with incredibly aggressive sorting recycling efforts by the transfer station owners, there is a lot of “FLUFF” –anywhere from 10% to 30%.
“Fluff” in most cases is a cost as it is sent to landfill, i.e. the MRF has to pay to transport the material by truck as well as landfill tipping fees. The MRF makes a profit by its waste collection efforts of picking up the recyclables, which is paid by the municipality, sorting out the recyclables that can be profitably recycled (i.e. buyers pay per ton) less the cost of the remaining “fluff” sent to landfill.
As a FYI, while in the landfill, the biodegradable components of the “fluff” municipal solid waste (e.g. paper and food wastes) decomposes and emits methane – a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Other components (e.g. leachate) can also cause significant pollution in air and ground water.
A MRF would purchase one of our units if it saves more money by using the combustor on-site, rather than taking the “fluff” to landfill where it has to pay the landfill operator. In other words, the bottom line for a MRF is as follows: the ROI gained from the savings generated by disposing the “fluff” on site versus the costs of taking fluff to landfill (transportation, employee time/effort and tipping fees).
A typical MRF has far more “fluff” it brings to landfill than the capacity of one of our machines, which is about 7000 tons/year. Let’s assume the all-in cost is $50/ton to transport the “fluff” to landfill and paying the tipping fee. That’s a savings of $350,000 per unit per year. Our combustor, by itself, would offer a solid ROI, if leased over 5 years, and acceptable payback period within 4 years, if not. Therefore, we expect a MRF to buy one unit, operate it for a year to understand its operating throughput and employee costs, and potentially order more units based on the amount of recyclables collected by the MRF.
By connecting the ORC power generation system, we should be able to drive the energy produced right back, “off grid” into powering the MRF—which will save money, too. Rather than send the electricity into the power grid at “wholesale” price, the MRF can avoid paying “retail” for the power generated. The ROI profit potential for using this power, however, is not as meaningful due to the low costs of oil, currently, and the relatively high cost of the ORC system that a company would have to purchase from an external 3rd party.
Last, it should also be noted that with our system in place at the MRF site and in periods of very low recycling prices, the MRF also has the option of disposing of this recyclable material to produce energy via our unit, rather than take a loss when selling it in the recycling marketplace.
Potential Use Cases
We wrote brief writeups for each of these use cases to illustrate the different ways our unit can be deployed, especially due to its mobility.
Our strategic plan is to focus on just one or two areas, initially, based on market receptivity, ROI, and overall socio-economic benefits derived from simultaneously destroying waste and producing energy.
In 2016, we wrote up 3 solutions that showcase the larger global impact of our WTE combustor: For refugee camps, for destroying plastic, and as an alternative to landfill, especially in developing countries.