Stock Groups

How Amazon, American Airlines and Subaru burn waste to make energy


Stanislaus County is a northern California county that houses a landfill. A new company uses a different method to manage waste: they burn it instead of burying.

New Jersey-based energy recovery company CovantaThe steam is used to generate enough electricity for 18,000 households in the region. Companies account for a portion of this waste. American Airlines, Quest DiagnosticsSunny Delight Subaru.

Paul Gilman is chief sustainability officer at Covanta. The company has over 40 locations around the world.

Principal retailers like AmazonThey can also dispose of unwanted returns using this combustion technique if they are unable to recycle or resell them. CNBC heard from Amazon that they sends some returns to energy recoveryThe company said it is a last resort, but declined to specify which facilities. Covanta claimed it can’t process Amazon returns.

Only 10% of the 270,000 tonnage of waste Covanta generates at its Crows Landing facility in California (a two hour drive east of San Francisco) comes from businesses. Most of the rest comes from nearby waste collections.

Gilman noted that the fastest-growing segment of business is corporations. This comes as increasing numbers of businesses try to lower their environmental impact.

Covanta’s energy recycling facility burns its waste to around 2,000 F. The combustor is connected to 21 miles of pipes. Here, the heat transforms water into steam, which turns turbines that power a generator. It also produces carbon and toxic, but it does not emit methane, unlike landfills.

The United States is one the most wasteful developed countriesIn the entire world. More than a quarter of the 292,000,000 tons of American waste produced each year is recycled. half is landfilledAccording to the World Bank, approximately a third of this waste is recycled and 12% goes into incineration at waste-to energy facilities.

One problem is online commerce

Internet purchases are not only breaking new heights in volume but they also set records for quality. roughlyThe return rate for online purchases is 20%, but it’s higher at 20% than in-store. Optoro returns solution provider estimates the U.S. generates an estimated 5.8 million pounds of landfill waste annually. CNBC reported that Amazon said it sends no items to landfills.

Cherris Arour, Amazon’s North American head for returns said that “there are many items we can’t get or aren’t recyclable. These are for legal reasons or reasons for, well, product damage.” We do seek energy recovery in those instances.”

The claw collects seven tons of garbage, and places it in the boiler. It’s then used to create energy at Stanislaus County’s waste-toenergy plant.

Katie Schoolov

Keep growing waste from going to landfills 

parts of Europe and AsiaThis picture shows a completely different view.

Japan, Denmark, and Germany are more dependent on energy recovery than landfills. The EU has waste incineration doubled from 1995 to 2019.

However, burning refuse is still an intensive carbon-intensive process. Neil Tangri and others criticize the practice. Global Alliance for Incinerator AlternativesSome countries, according to the GAIA, have come to relyIt is too much.

“Denmark now realizes that it incinerates too much wasteTangri stated that if the company is to reach its greenhouse gas emission targets, it will need to decrease waste incineration.

The first American incinerator, built in New York City in 1895, was constructed in the U.S. It was used by the city to produce enough electricity for the lighting of the Williamsburg Bridge a decade later.

Nearly half of the U.S. States are in this category define waste-to-energy as a renewable energy source. This is a different source than landfills. Non-governmental organisations and governments consider it to be a source of mitigation for greenhouse gases. It includes U.S. Environmental Protection AgencySusan Thorneloe directs research in materials management at.

Thorneloe stated that combusting waste is better than burning it or burying it. “You get energy value, metals, and it doesn’t produce methane.” 

These are three factors, according to U.S. climate experts. The first is that it prevents waste from being dumped into landfills. Methane, according to the EPA’s estimates, is 86x more potent than carbon dioxide for a 20 year period.

Second, the use of waste-to-energy plants reduces mining by recovering more. 700,000 tons of metalEach year. They also produce energy and reduce the need for fossil fuels.

Marco J. Castaldi is the director of Earth System Science and Environmental Engineering Programs at City College of New York. He stated that for every ton of trash you dispose of, it saves you a ton of carbon dioxide that would be created by burning fossil fuels.

It is also possible to capture steam from a distance of up to 1 mile and transport it to entire buildings to heat/cool them. TargetField is in Minneapolis

Landfills may be able to capture energy from the decaying of organic material but they are far less efficient in terms of production. Landfill gas generates enough power for 810,000 U.S. homesCompare to 2.3 million homesThese facilities are far more efficient than other waste-to energy plants.

Paul Gilman, chief sustainability officer at Covanta stands in front the Stanislaus County Switchyard on April 13, 2022. Here the incineration and generation of electricity generate enough power to power 18,000 homes.

Katie Schoolov

Monitoring carefully for toxic ash and emissions

Covanta’s public dataIt was shown that emissions coming from its Northern California facility stack were far lower than the U.S. Federal standards. Covanta removes toxic substances from combustion gases using a complex filtration process that includes activated carbon, limestone “scrubbers”.

Gilman stated that “The air pollution control system, they weren’t present on the old-fashioned incinerators. They were the object of much people’s ire.”

The EPA has estimated that waste-to-energy produces an average amount of about half a metric tonne of CO2 equivalent gases for every megawatt hour of electricity. Six times more carbon dioxide equivalent gasses are released by landfills than electricity. coal plants emit nearly double.

Critics of the process are concerned about mercury and dioxin. GAIA points out facilities like one in the NetherlandsThe regulators discovered that the plant was emitting such high levels of dioxin, it was contaminating nearby grass and eggs.

“Despite the use of air pollution control equipment, and monitoring,” there are still a lot of toxins Tangri explained that there are many heavy metals in the smoke plume. Tangri mentioned lead, mercury arsenic and arsenic as some of them. “Here, in the U.S. our monitoring systems are and our standards is much lower than those in Europe.”

However, scientists have other opinions air pollution technology has come so far in the last two decadesMost of the most toxic toxins are now gone.

Castaldi stated that the amount of dioxin emitted by all waste-to energy facilities within a year is only a fraction of what forms from forest fires.

However, incineration produces a lot toxic ash. Covanta conducts regular tests to ensure that hazardous materials don’t leach from the ashes. 

Gilman stated, “Happily we’ve always passed all our tests.”

Facilities in Europe separate toxic fly ash from the safer “bottom ash”, which is used for concrete and road construction. The fly and bottom Ash are often mixed together in the United States. This makes it toxic, so they’re buried on-site.

Thorneloe from the EPA stated, “There is probably more municipal solid ash we can use but due to the negative connotation I just don’t see that happening.” 

‘Arguing for last place’

America’s landfills are a major business. Castaldi says waste-to-energy represents a $10 billion market, but the total waste management industry can be measured at $208 billion. Like Landfill Companies Waste ManagementAnd Republic ServicesHave outperformed the market since 2015This allows them to maintain low prices as they grow.

Bryan Staley, of The Advocate, stated that there are currently approximately 1.450 landfills, as opposed to the 76 waste-to energy plants. Environmental Research Education Foundation. Many businesses find it hard to join.

Staley explained that the rail had to be hauled halfway across the United States. This is because most of America’s waste energy facilities can be found in the northeast, Florida and Minnesota. 

Companies that choose energy recovery over waste disposal will have to add carbon emissions from the transport. California has only two energy recovery facilities, and the Covanta facility is among them. Europe is home to more than 400. 

Gilman stated that there is a question as to why California, and most Americans for that matter are so obsessed with their landfills. But it is a fact. “It happens, we have plenty of land. Europe doesn’t have this luxury.”

It is a profitable business to convert waste into energy. A ton worth of waste can be turned into energy. $20 to $30 of revenueAccording to the EPA, it is. Covanta was on a big upward Swing before the Swedish investment company took the company privatized last year. $5.3 billion deal. Actually, incineration can be one of the most effective ways to dispose off waste. most expensive commercial ways to generate energyTo and from handle wasteIt will cost you more to send it to the landfill than it would be in your home.

Amazon, a giant company, can sometimes negotiate special rates. They can achieve sustainability goals by burning their waste rather than sending it to the landfills. Tangri also said that this can help optics.

Tangri explained that “if Amazon sends all its returns into a landfill,” anyone could visit the landfill to see them. It would be an abominable visual. The evidence is hidden when something is burned.”

Tangri stated, “Companies and consumers should be more focused on really” cutting emissionsThrough reducing, reuse and recycling

Tangri declared, “You’re fighting for last place.” We know the importance of keeping as much material, especially organics out the waste stream. If Amazon returns were being sold at a discount rather than being disposed off, we would not have to ask the question of whether or not it is better to bury it or burn it.

Amazon does not provide any specific information. However, the company is a good example of this. adding programs to make sure more returns are resold as used, refurbished, or liquidated. Amazon states that it is working towards zero product disposal, despite not having a target date.

WATCH: How Amazon plans to fix its multi-billion dollar returns problem