Is Taylor's gasifier the best solution for waste disposal in Orange County?

| 22 Feb 2012 | 05:27

    Goshen — Getting rid of waste and finding cheap new sources of energy are two of civilization’s thorniest problems. But what if you solved both problems with a pollution-free way to convert waste into energy? Orange County officials say they’ve found such a solution. Taylor Biomass wants to build a “gasifier” that will covert the county’s non-recyclable trash into electricity. Last year the county executive, Ed Diana, called the proposed gasifier “a revolution, a vision for the future” that will put the county “on the forefront of how garbage should be disposed of throughout the world.” What could be better than that? Neil Seldman of the Institute for Self-Reliance says there are plenty of better options. And he’ll be talking more about them at an informational forum sponsored by Orange Environment at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5. Seldman says the Taylor plant will only “burn up valuable materials” that could be put to use. At a public hearing on the county’s waste plan last November, Jim Taylor of Taylor Biomass said his proposal does not use combustion and therefore creates no byproducts. “I am every bit as against incineration as you are,” he told the audience. Seldman disagrees. “Taylor will insist that they are not burning,” he said. “They will say they are 'gasifying’ garbage. Some gas is poison.” He said he’s helped Los Angeles, Austin, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Redding, Pa., avoid what he calls “incineration” in favor of a more profitable, efficient recycling alternative that creates more jobs. Such an alternative would divert 90 percent of waste from the county landfill. Michael Edelstein, president of Orange Environment, said the term “non-recyclable” needs to be defined. “You could argue that everything’s recyclable,” he said. “Our goal is to get as close to 100 percent as we can.” In fact, back in 1987, Orange Environment won an administrative decision in its fight against the expansion of the county landfill. Edelstein said Orange Environment then argued that the county didn’t need a landfill because it could recycle 90 percent of its waste. Resources that going up in value, and that should be conserved, will be burned up, Seldman said. “The low-lying fruit is gone,” he said. “It costs $200 per ton for paper, newsprint $200 per ton, cans, bottles and plastic $180 per ton, and prices are only going to go up.” With India and China now consuming at a middle class rate, demand for these resources is only going to grow, making recycling good sense, he said. Seldman advises against investing in high-tech facilities that destroy these resources, but rather to make them available to companies that use them while increasing jobs and the tax base. A tenth of money used to haul organic waste could be put towards composting and recycling, Seldman said. Pressuring officials to listen Seldman was careful to explain: He and his company care about the environment, but they’re not are not environmentalists. He and his company will offer consulting services, but they are not consultants. “Our business is full of high-content ambiguity,” he said. The institute will contract with a city, but to avoid conflicts will only offer referrals if citizens bring them in. “If someone asks us whether or not it would be a good idea to have a large box chain store in their area, we research it and write a report,” he said. Citizens then put pressure on their elective representatives to listen, he said. Nine times out of ten, he said, they do. The company then provides a list of consulting firms. “Our mission is to support a sustainable environment, decentralized industrial economy and a just society,” he said. “We support family farming, not corporate farming and believe that the economy should support all.” What do you think? Should the county support the taylor gasifier or look into other options? Post your comments.

    Essential information
    What: “Crafting the best solid waste future for Orange County: What are the opportunities?”
    When: 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5
    Where: Goshen Presbyterian Church Hall, 33 Park Place (Park Place entrance)< br> Time: 7:30 p.m.
    How much: Free