Closing the Miami-Dade waste-to-energy facility would harm environment | Opinion

·3 min read
Pedro Portal/ pportal@miamiherald.com

Any suggestion that waste-to-energy be removed from Miami-Dade County’s toolbox, as proposed by the Aug. 10 op-ed “A new incinerator to burn waste in Miami-Dade is a toxic proposal” is simply irresponsible.

Waste-to-energy (WTE) is critical infrastructure for Miami-Dade, as well as for the rest of Florida’s most populous communities. By combusting garbage at temperatures ranging between 1,500 degrees and 1,800 degrees, WTE guarantees safe and environmentally sound disposal of municipal solid waste.

There are many other benefits. WTE reduces the volume of garbage by 90% and creates an inert ash that can be reused in materials for construction and asphalt for roads. The generation of renewable electricity is another by-product.

The Miami-Dade Resource Recovery Facility produces up to 77 megawatts, enough to power 35,000 homes. The facility further recovers 20,000 tons of metal annually, enough to build 13,000 cars.

Without the use of modern WTE facilities, Miami-Dade County would have to transport most of its garbage out of the area for disposal. In fact, county officials have warned that without the Doral WTE facility, it would take an additional 100,000 round-trip truck trips to haul the community’s 2 million annual tons of garbage to the closest regional landfill — 275 miles round trip.

Miami-Dade County’s only other alternative for disposing of household waste is the 300-acre South Dade landfill, located south of Cutler Bay. This landfill is supposed to reach capacity in 2029 — seven years from now. With few options and a dense metropolitan area, where in Miami-Dade County would another landfill go?

This isn’t just about the garbage that the WTE facility in Doral manages. Miami-Dade County’s Department of Solid Waste is responsible for all of the garbage produced not only by the County’s 2.7 million residents, but also by the 20 million-plus tourists who visit the region each year. Make no mistake, this is a tall order. And it is one fact that cannot be ignored.

Finally, regarding the impact on climate change, WTE facilities are the most sustainable option for the trash we create compared with landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union both agree. Why? WTE facilities combust garbage, which diverts it from sitting in a landfill, preventing the generation of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Robust, peer-reviewed research shows that for every ton of waste processed in a WTE facility, you avoid the equivalent generation of a ton of carbon dioxide. With Florida’s 10 WTE facilities, we are able to prevent 6.5 million tons of carbon emissions every year.

That’s why Europe has embraced this technology and now has more than 400 WTE facilities, with more on the way. By comparison, the United States has 75 WTE facilities. Florida has the most facilities of any state.

As Miami-Dade policymakers wrestle with how to manage the future of solid waste disposal, WTE is a proven, environmentally advantageous solution to the waste we all generate. It is a solid-waste disposal option that belongs in the toolbox. A Miami-Dade WTE facility is the right choice for residents and the region’s future.

Joe Kilsheimer is the executive director of the Florida Waste-to-Energy Coalition.