Burning yard waste is cheaper than hauling it out of the Keys

KeysInfoNet ContributorFebruary 19, 2014 

The knee-jerk reaction of opposition to the Monroe County demonstration project to incinerate yard waste only was expected, although in the big picture of sustainability, this project has clear merits to achieve exactly what the county Climate Change Advisory Committee desires.

The County Commission recognizes what redirected savings from a less-expensive method of disposing of yard waste can do for the sustainability program. Incineration is demonstrably a less expensive way to eliminate yard waste. Composting can work well in areas where acres of cheap, expansive, rural, open, unused farmland are available.

Mulching Monroe County yard waste has inherent negative issues. Palm fronds do not mulch well at all. They also have white-fly infestation. And due to transportation cost, even still, mulching and composting is much more expensive than incineration.

Implementing an incineration project(s) whereby we can determine whether this is an acceptable and/or better use of excised funds to deal with yard waste is the goal. If so, these cost savings can implement the more costly elements of the climate action plan without economic impact to our residential users.

In transporting yard waste 500 miles (round trip) to this out-of-town waste-to-energy plant, we unnecessarily put many trucks on the road, creating a carbon footprint and crowd the only highway out and into the Keys with large trucks while adding a cost-of-living-expense in the Keys for a debatable reduction in greenhouse gas.

Using rough numbers (these are the numbers we are trying to fine-tune for accuracy by doing this project), we pay $84.50 a ton to haul 30,000 tons of yard waste out of the Keys. We can incinerate for $60 per ton. The air-curtain incineration meets federal and state air quality regulations. The math: $24.50 per ton times 30,000 tons could equal $735,000 in savings.

By utilizing a less-costly operation of disposal, these savings then could be used to implement our sustainability program and climate action plan sooner rather than later. Most importantly, we would be doing our part in reducing our demand for fossil fuels while reducing our demand for fossil fuels generated beyond the boundaries of the United States. We also would stabilize the cost of solid-waste removal to our residents for the next 10 years.

The Stone Age didn't go out of existence because the world ran out of stones. It went out of existence because a better way to do things was recognized and implemented. I can assure you that demand for fossil fuel is not going out of existence because we'll run out of oil.

In 1972, a barrel (42 gallons) of oil cost $3.60. Remember the news and Chicken Little "we're running out?" Remember the gas lines? Fast forward: While invading Iraq it was $150 per barrel. It's a plentiful commodity supply that's very, very controllable as to create demand. Run up the price and they'll get you all the oil you want. Don't you think it's time to tell the Middle East to keep theirs?

Our demand for fossil fuels will succumb only when we change our bad habits, recognizing that the alternatives to oil -- photovoltaic, wind, hydro and thermal -- will give a peaceful pay back to those who threaten our very existence quicker than any invasion of a foreign country.

It was Einstein who said, "You can never create a solution for a problem with the same thinking that created the problem in the first place."

George Neugent is in his fourth four-year term as a Monroe County commissioner. His district takes in the Lower Keys and part of Marathon.

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