Lane County is seeking project funding to construct a state-of-the-art Integrated Material and Energy Recovery Facility (IMERF) in Lane County, Oregon. The IMERF would be the most technologically advanced waste processing facility in the country and would utilize technology and equipment built in the USA. The integrated facility would process municipal solid waste, single stream recycling, and organic waste to produce marketable recycling commodities and biogas for transportation. The facility would hopefully divert over 80,000 tons of material annually from the County’s landfill for processing, generate marketable natural gas, and would serve as a regional recycling hub for southwest Oregon.
The project is a public private partnership between Lane County, which holds the highest recycling rate of any county in Oregon, and Bulk Handling Systems. Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) is headquartered and has its main manufacturing facility in Eugene, Oregon. BHS is a worldwide leader in the innovative design, engineering, manufacturing and installation of sorting systems and components for solid waste management, recycling, waste-to-energy, and construction and demolition industries.
Dan Hurley, The Lane County Public Works Director, said that the County was motivated to explore this proposal because burying waste is not the most effective way to handle trash. Landfills compress waste which eliminates oxygen from the material in the landfill. That leads to deterioration which produces methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Maintaining a landfill is also expensive and requires a constant supply of additional land. Each 8-12 years a new “cell” must be added to the landfill at a cost of about $18 million. The current landfill at Short Mountain has a remaining useful life of about 20 years. Creating this facility would extend that life for another 20 to 30 years and avoid even more expensive solutions like those employed by Portland, which trucks its waste to eastern Oregon and Washington.
Jeff Orlandini, County Waste Management Division Manager, added that the system would increase the County’s recycling ability. White Lane County has the best recycling rate in the state now, at 52 percent., this system would get the County over the 70 percent mark, he said. This system permits also could capture about 80 percent of the methane that could be generated from organic waste, and removing organic new organic waste from the landfill would also help to extend its life. When asked about whether or not this change would interfere with the relationship with EPUD, who now uses methane from the landfill, he said that existing organics already in the landfill would generate methane to fulfill the agreement with EPUD for the full term of that agreement.
Concerns that have been raised about the project relate to the fact that the funding mechanisms would require regular increases in garbage rates over the next several years. Thes would result from increases in the “tipping fee” which Lane County imposes on haulers. That fee, which makes up about 20 percent of the average garbage bill would go up significantly to fund the costs of the $135 million project, which would be funded by $35 million from the County and $100 million from BHS. BHS will recoup some of its spending by selling the methane generated at the plant. The County expects to recover fees from plastic producers who are obliged to support recycling under legislation passed in 2019. Current estimates suggest that residential rates would rise by about 10 to 14 percent over the next six years and commercial rates would rise by 14 to 20 percent over that time.
While there are number of other waste related infrastructure projects which the County is exploring (such as potential relocation of the Glenwood transfer station or the construction of infrastructure to provide sewer service to Goshen and move the leachate from the landfill to the Wastewater Treatment Plant), staff has recommend moving this one ahead because it can take advantage of significant federal funding under the American Recovery Act which remains available only for a limited period of time.
The facility would not be a replacement for the existing EcoSort facility and the Glenwood transfer station. It would be located in Goshen, a little over a mile north of the Short Mountain landfill. Its location would offer a benefit to haulers because of the reduced distance saving haulers about three miles for each round trip.
Steve Miller of Bulk Handling Systems said that they already have local relationships between companies that will provide the construction and the steel needed for the facility, generating more local economic activity. He said that the facility would be constructed in about 24 months from the time the County approves the agreement with Bulk Handling Systems. The facility would also reduce the cost of handling recyclables because they could be processed locally rather than, as now, being transported to Portland for handling. The gas produced by the plant would be dedicated to transportation needs (to take advantage of federal tax credits thereby reducing the net cost of the project) and would provide enough fuel to operate 115 trucks or buses for a year. He said LTD is one entity considering the possibility of using that fuel.