August 13, 2005

R.E.N.E.W. L.A. - Jumpstarting Waste Reform in L.A.

Below are some excerpts from the progressive waste reform plan, R.E.N.E.W. L.A., proposed by Councilmember Greig Smith of the Los Angeles City Council (7/14/2005). To read the complete executive summary and plan, go to: "R.E.N.E.W. LA" Plan.

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The City has a long way to go to create a new paradigm of sustainability, resource conservation, maximum material recovery, environmental protection, and renewable energy - a system in which the concept of waste itself is transformed to one of resource management.

It’s about Recovering Energy, Natural Resources, and Economic Benefit from Waste for Los Angeles - “RENEW LA”.

The goal of zero waste as defined in this plan is to reduce, reuse, recycle, or convert the resources now going to disposal so as to achieve an overall diversion level of 90% or more by 2025; and to leave for disposal only a small inert residual.

A Zero Waste philosophy includes a broad array of programs and policies within an overall framework of sustainability. Some of these goals, as voiced by the CIWMB (Sacramento-based California Integrated Waste Management Board) include:
• Promoting the management of all materials to their best and highest use
• Protecting public health and the environment
• Maximizing waste reduction and recycling
• Ensuring that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into society
• Promoting front-end design efficiency in manufacturing to conserve virgin materials and reduce waste
• Harnessing the energy potential of waste by using new and clean technology to convert the material directly into “green” fuel, gas, or electricity

Conversion Technologies form a nexus between the solid waste industry and the power industry in that they “convert” portions of our wastestreams into renewable energy - thus simultaneously achieving waste diversion and green energy. In the City of Los Angeles, this creates a connection with the Department of Water and Power (DWP) and its aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) calling for 13% renewable energy by 2010 and 20% by 2017.

This blueprint relies on two key elements:
• the continuation, enhancement and growth of existing diversion programs; and
• the development of new CT facilities to process residual material still going to disposal (all CTs are non-combustion).

This plan makes no recommendations regarding the types of CT to be developed, but does highlight the five basic ones currently being evaluated and developed in Los Angeles and already in use in other cities and countries around the world. The CTs are:
• Gasification and Pyrolysis
• Anaerobic Digestion
• MSW Composting
• Autoclaving
• Fermentation

Not only does renewable energy decrease our demand for foreign and new supplies of domestic oil and other fossil fuels, it reduces greenhouse gases, and creates local jobs at the new facilities that would be constructed to generate this electricity.

The allure of fermentation CT in Los Angeles is that ethanol could be manufactured not from grain, but from the organic material in our wastestreams. This provides even more advantages in terms of greenhouse gas reductions and clean air benefits, plus generating home grown energy and the jobs and economic drivers that go along with it.

In California, ethanol is in huge demand with over 700 million gallons per year currently consumed in the State (and much of that, of course, in Los Angeles) under the MTBE additive replacement program. Currently, virtually all this ethanol is made from corn and comes from out of State. And this is at a very low percentage ethanol blend. If the blend were increased to 10% (E-10) or more (i.e. Brazil uses vehicles that burn an 85% ethanol blend (E-85)), the demand for the product would be almost unimaginable. In addition, hydrogen can be derived from ethanol; therefore, these fermentation plants can ultimately support the Governor’s “Hydrogen Highway” concept.

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