MARCH 9 2012 19:25h

Energy potential for New York City's trash

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NEW YORK, March 9 (UPI) -- New York City aims to convert its garbage into energy.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for bids from private companies to build a pilot "state-of-the-art conversion technology facility."

The city seeks bids that use anaerobic digestion, gasification, hydrolysis or similar technologies to "cleanly convert" waste into energy. Conventional "mass burn" waste –to-energy or conventional refuse-derived fuel technologies won't be considered.

The facility must be in New York City or within 80 miles of the city, Bloomberg said.

"New Yorkers generate more than 10,000 tons of solid waste every day and too much of it ends up in landfills," Bloomberg said in a statement. "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."

New York City's Department of Sanitation collects more than 3 million tons of waste annually, spending more than $300 million to transport it to landfills and other facilities outside of Manhattan.

The waste creates 728,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year, the department says, most of it as methane emitting from the landfills.

Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty said that such a facility would reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and also shorten the distances garbage trucks need to travel to disposal sites, thus lowering total emissions.

Under the new waste reduction plan announced in January, New York aims to double the amount of waste diverted from landfills, from 15 percent to 30 percent, by 2017.

Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway said proposals will have to pass "rigorous environmental and community scrutiny" to move forward.

But some environmental groups criticized the city's waste-to-energy plan.

"These aren't new technologies. They're (a) newer version of incineration," Laura Haight, senior environmental associate at the New York Public Interest Research Group was quoted as saying by Manhattan's online newspaper, DNAinfo.com.

She cited leaks and explosions as possible dangers.

Noting that facilities operating in Europe and elsewhere are in areas with recycling rates of 40 percent or more, Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, said "New York City's anemic 15 percent recycling rate means our municipal waste stream is dirtier, which means higher pollution emission levels," for a waste conversion facility, The New York Times reports.