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Leaders in waste-to-energy visit facility in Maine

Attendees of the North American Waste-to-Energy Conference (NAWTEC) were treated to an on-site visit at the Ecomaine facility in southern Maine last month. Ecomaine is a non-profit waste management company, comprised of a recycling operation, waste-to-energy facility, and a landfill/ashfill site that provide services to 335,000 people in more than 40 communities.

Visiting the facility was a great opportunity for engineers, policymakers and other waste management experts to see firsthand how these different technologies can work together to minimize waste going to landfills.

Ecomaine’s recycling facility is the largest in Maine. It processes paper, plastics (#1-#7), metal (tin, aluminum, steel), and glass. During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Ecomaine recycled 35,550 tons of materials.

This facility is also an important example that illustrates the potential of energy recovery. The waste-to-energy plant processes about 175,000 tons of trash per year, producing enough electricity annually to serve all the homes in both South Portland and Gorham. Ecomaine’s revenue from the sale of electric power in 2009 alone was $6.2 million.

Currently, there are 86 waste-to-energy facilities operating in the United States. Just think: What if we had more facilities that could convert waste into energy? How could they help reduce America’s dependency on foreign energy sources? Not to mention the revenue and jobs these facilities could help bring to these areas.

Communities around the nation could learn a lot from Ecomaine and other companies that are using traditional and emerging technologies to recover energy from waste. Like many of these companies, this facility shows how recycling and waste-to-energy can complement each other and potentially provide a revenue stream.

Our nation’s energy policy should harness all of America’s viable energy sources, including recovering energy from waste, in order to fuel innovation, job growth and a sustainable economy. Ecomaine is one model that illustrates how energy recovery can make an important contribution.

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