Upcoming Solid Waste Regulations and Recycling, Liners, and Waste-to-Energy

From the Desk of  Jim Golden, V.P., HSA Golden Another legislative session has passed. With it, another piece of solid waste and recycling legislation was passed which will impact those of us in the business of waste management. The legislation to which I’m referring is Senator Lee Constantine’s original Senate Bill 570, which passed as House Bill 7243 during the last week of the legislative session (i.e., the last week of April 2010). If the Governor signs this legislation, it takes effect July 1, 2010.

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Here are the highlights (in my opinion) of what is contained in this legislation: 1. Sets a VOLUNTARY 75% recycling goal for Florida to be achieved by 2020. 2. Allows previously banned yard waste to be landfilled in Class I (lined) landfills, IF the landfill is equipped to recover gas AND arranges for the reuse of the gas. 3. Requires liners at all new Construction & Demolition Debris (C&D) landfills (currently permitted cells are exempt). New expansions may be exempt if it can be demonstrated that groundwater will not be impacted. 4. All non-source separated C&D materials must be processed before being disposed (where economically feasible); this can be done at a permitted C&D facility. 5. Creates a Recycling Business Assistance Center (RBAC) within Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). 6. Eliminates the Innovative Recycling Grants program. 7. Allows energy production from Waste to Energy plants to be counted as part of the 75% recycling goal, as long as the county/city in which the plant(s) are located has a program designed to recycle at least 40% of its municipal solid waste by means other than combustion or gasification.

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#3 (above) states that the bill “requires liners at all C&D landfills.” This is NOT accurate; in the last few days of the legislative session, the strict liner requirement was amended. Language about this issue was apparently stripped from HB 7243, amended, and then inserted in Senate Bill (SB) 550. The following is the specific language about C&D liners now found in SB 550 (Section 47, Paragraph (b) of subsection (9) of section 403.707, Florida Statutes), which is amended to read:

“The department shall require liners and leachate collection systems at individual disposal units and lateral expansions of existing disposal units that have not received a department permit authorizing construction or operation prior to July 1, 2010, unless the owner or operator demonstrates, based upon the types of waste received, the methods for controlling types of waste disposed of, the proximity of the groundwater and surface water, and the results of the hydrogeological and geotechnical investigations, that the facility is not expected to result in violations of the groundwater standards and criteria if built without a liner.”

With regard to Waste to Energy (WTE) Recycling Credits (refer to #7 above), the FDEP would determine the methodology(ies) to be used for determining how much recycling credit would be awarded for burning municipal solid waste. However, language was inserted into the bill during the last few days of the legislative session that already provides such a methodology. The following is that language:

“In order to promote the production of renewable energy from solid waste, each megawatt-hour produced by a renewable energy facility using solid waste as a fuel shall count as one ton of recycled material and shall be applied toward meeting the recycling goals set forth in this section. If a county creating renewable energy from solid waste implements and maintains a program to recycle at least 50 percent of municipal solid waste by a means other than creating renewable energy, that county shall count two tons of recycled material for each megawatt-hour produced. If waste originates from a county other than the county in which the renewable energy facility resides, the originating county shall receive such recycling credit. Any county that has a debt service payment related to its waste-to-energy facility shall receive one ton of recycled materials credit for each ton of solid waste processed at the facility. Any byproduct resulting from the creation of renewable energy does not count as waste.”

I have been informed from several sources that utilizing the accounting system set up by the above language may result in recycling numbers that exceed a 100% recycling rate. I’m sure that this issue will receive more attention after July 1 when the legislation takes effect (again, assuming that the Governor signs the bill into law).

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I’m certain that all of us will learn more about the potential and real impacts of this legislation in the following months. We need to closely watch FDEP’s subsequent rulemaking hearings – they must take place within six months of this legislation – to make sure that our interests are voiced, and that the rules accurately reflect these bills.