Waste-to-energy plan explained

In response to the Nov. 23 Viewpoint, “Waste-to-energy plan has changed,” I would like to clarify some misleading information that was presented about the project.

In 2012, the County of Maui submitted a request for proposal for a solution to divert as much waste from the Central Maui Landfill as possible in an environmentally sustainable way. The RFP included the consideration of tip fees to be paid by the county for every ton of waste going to the new facility and for the project developer to manage the marketable energy and recyclable resources. Based on the strength of the proposal, cost savings to the county, environmental benefits and other economic benefits, Anaergia was selected.

The plan presented by Anaergia includes a materials recovery facility where recyclables are recovered, and an anaerobic digester where the wet organics contained in solid waste are digested along with sewage sludge to recover renewable biomethane. The facility will use state-of-the-art technology to maximize the quantity of recyclables that are recovered and methane capture at the facility.

Engineering refinements and improvements will continue to take place in the design, execution and operating phases, as they should as part of a continuous improvement process. The statement that the plan has changed is far from true. The fundamental design of the facility that includes a materials recovery facility and an anaerobic digester remains the same. Outputs from the consultative process have resulted in protocols that will help in achieving higher levels of recycling and environmental benefits – something that is worthy of applause and not a rebuke.

The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Allen Hershkowitz, who was invited to the October “Anaerobic Digestion” event, said, “There’s no ecological basis to oppose this plan, NRDC supports it and we’re known as the toughest guys in the business.”

This is an important endorsement given that NRDC is the United States’ most effective environmental action group, with 1.4 million members and the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.

Recycling and energy production from a renewable resource are not mutually exclusive. Anaergia presented a solution to the county that maximizes recycling first. The nonrecyclable materials with calorific value are to be converted into clean renewable fuel. This principle is not new in the industry and is considered the most environmentally friendly solution.

This project incorporates and integrates world-leading technologies for material recycle. Opponents are wrong to think this project will decrease recycling. The truth is just the opposite. Once this plant is built, Maui will have the highest level of material recycling in the nation and will become a shining beacon of progress for environmental sustainability.

* Arun Sharma is the president of Anaergia Services.