Thursday, August 20, 2009

Trash-to-energy plan for landfill discussed


August 20, 2009 7:08 AM

Although it would nearly double tipping costs, implementation of trash-to-energy conversion technology at Tajiguas landfill would necessitate a less severe increase for ratepayers in their trash bills and help ease the burden on the landfill, which was described as "basically at capacity" by Nina Johnson, assistant to Santa Barbara's city administrator, at Tuesday's city council meeting.

At a forum over conversion technology at the Faulkner Gallery Wednesday night, Project Leader Carlyle Johnston explained that the proposed technology would break waste down quickly in a controlled environment to produce energy and marketable products.

"That happens anyway in a landfill," said Mr. Johnston, explaining that using conversion technology would "speed it up and make it ideal."

Current tipping fees, which are the rates charged at the landfill when garbage is actually brought there, are currently at $63 for each ton of garbage. Implementing conversion technology would increase the tipping fee to $100 per ton, but the residential ratepayer would receive less than $4 in increase to monthly trash bills.

The city council approved a resolution regarding its intent to commit the city's residual solid waste to a conversion technology facility at Tajiguas. According to Mr. Johnston, the program was as successful with Goleta's city council and hopes to achieve success in Buellton and Solvang. Those four cities, along with Santa Barbara County, are the affected jurisdictions and are the jurisdictions within which the project is being handled.

Conversion technology is not the same as thermal technology, which Mr. Johnston explained is the controversial process of "heating up waste with the absence of oxygen."

Thermal technology creates a gas and is environmentally hazardous.

The use of conversion technology is necessary, argued Mr. Johnston, because the annual growth in waste generation since 1990 has been 2.7 percent, but the annual population growth since then has been 1 percent.

If the project's timeline remains on track, the conversion technology facility will be operational by November 2015.

For more information, contact Mr. Johnston at or 882-3617.

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