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Cedar Rapids/Linn County looking at new ways to handle waste
Solid Waste Agency’s board reviews options after Marion says no to extending current landfill’s life past 2044
CEDAR RAPIDS — With the landfill in Marion set to close in 2044, community leaders are looking at emerging technologies — thermal, biological, chemical and mechanical — to handle waste.
The Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency board, made up of city and county leaders, on Tuesday reviewed the options during a board meeting at the agency’s Mount Trashmore location in Cedar Rapids.
“Some of these technologies may become more viable over the years and that’s something to keep in mind,” Dan Bacehowski, the environmental practice lead for HDR Inc., said.
Each option varies in cost and waste diversion, ranging from $35 to $200 per ton to operate and manage.
“It will be up to the board to capture the criteria that is important to the region,” Bacehowski said.
The waste agency board is looking at options after being notified in March that the city of Marion, as the landfill’s host city, would not extend the landfill’s capacity through 2074, as proposed last summer by the waste agency’s board.
The 360-acre landfill, at 1954 County Home Rd., is scheduled to close June 30, 2044.
In February, the solid waste agency hired HDR — for $445,810 through next summer — to evaluate its long-term waste-management options. HDR has worked with the agency before, designing the trails and overlook at the Mount Trashmore landfill after it closed.
HDR’s report to the board outlined four “classes” of waste management.
Thermal technologies use high temperatures to convert carbon-combustible materials into a gas or ash. The energy created can be recovered and used. The options include direct combustion, gasification, plasma arc gasification and pyrolysis.
Biological technologies use bacteria to consume parts of waste, using aerobic composting and anaerobic digestion. The biogas produced can be used to produce electricity or fuel.
Chemical technologies use chemistry to break down processed waste, which can be used for transportation fuels or thermal energy. The chemical options include hydrolysis and catalytic and thermal depolymerization.
Mechanical technologies use equipment and external heat from steam to divide waste into usable products — like recyclables — and waste residue. Options include autoclave/steam classification, mixed-waste processing and refuse-derived fuel production.
The HDR report “is one part of a long-term strategic process,” Solid Waste Agency Executive Director Karmin McShane said during the Tuesday meeting. “We’re looking at everything out there.”
The agency will use the information “to identify appropriate emerging technologies, industry trends and economic analyses, and infrastructure commitments and needs ... within Linn County and the regional area,” according to the technical memorandum provided at the meeting.
The technologies presented are in pilot or commercial stages of development.
Pilot means the technology has advanced far enough that a test facility exists somewhere in the United States or elsewhere in the world.
Commercial means at least one fully integrated facility has been built and in operation long enough to prove its reliability and the anticipated level of service, according to the memorandum.
The Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency handles around 200,000 tons of waste each year from 17 Eastern Iowa communities, charging at tonnage fee to cover expenses. Cities, in turn, charge residents for collection of garbage, yard waste and recyclables.
The city of Marion accounts for 3.28 percent of the landfill's waste tonnage.
The Solid Waste Agency’s next board meeting is June 15 at Mount Trashmore.
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