Composting Failed in CongressDespite “good intentions,” the U.S. Congress composting program has “failed.” So Congress has devised a new plan to deal with its waste: Convert it to energy. Although composting is good in theory, it hasn’t worked in practice, said Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif. And with a waste-to-energy program, the rest of Congress’ waste won’t have to be landfilled, as was done in recent years. “There was really no win-win-win on it,” Lungren said. “We were looking for ways to save money, but also do a more efficient job of reducing landfill à and we thought this showed real promise.” One reason composting failed, Lungren said, was it cost too much. Congress was spending nearly $500,000 a year to ship food scraps about 70 miles away, and higher fuel prices made the effort untenable. The new program will save about $60,000 annually, he said. Under a deal which begins in November, about 5,300 tons of Congress’ annual trash will be sent to waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities in Virginia. The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) agency has entered into a contract that will divert up to 90% of the U.S. Capitol Complex’s solid waste from landfills. The waste will be shipped to nearby incinerators and used to fuel generators that will produce electricity for the Capitol’s power grid, which the AOC said will generate enough electricity to power an office building the size of the Dirksen Senate Office Building or the Longworth House Office Building for several months. The decision to send waste from congressional facilities to waste-to-energy plants instead of landfills was based on an analysis conducted by the AOC’s Office of Energy and Sustainability, with direction from the Committee on House Administration (CHA). “We had a report that showed the failure of the composting program that had been utilized, and that had been recognized on a bipartisan basis,” said Lungren, who oversees the AOC as CHA chairman. When the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January, Lungren said they asked the Democrats what changes they would make. “And one of the subsequent recommendations they made was to get rid of the composting program because it had failed, despite all good intentions,” he said. Because composting only dealt with about 10% of the Capitol’s waste — about 535 tons a year — Congress sought a more comprehensive waste program. “We thought we’d expand it beyond [composting] and see if we could come to some alternative,” Lungren said. “One of the things that came on our radar screen was the waste-to-energy program that, when you do a little research on it, actually is being recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. EPA and a number of different government agencies when they look at it objectively.” Under the new contract, Washington-based Urban Service Systems will be collecting the waste and will transport it to Covanta Energy Corp.’s WTE plants in Virginia, said Eva Malecki, communications officer for the AOC. In metropolitan Washington, there are three Covanta WTE facilities that can process a combined 3,000 tons of waste per day and can generate up to 23 megawatts of energy that is sold to Dominion Virginia Power Co. “We were looking at what we need to do to maintain the [Capitol] campus and take care of the needs here, and one of those things is waste disposal,” Malecki said. “We look at the various options and look at what makes the most sense for our customer and the taxpayer.” The contract stipulates that the waste must be burned within 50 miles of the Capitol complex, which also puts forthcoming facilities in Maryland as possible destinations for Congress’ trash. Maryland has three WTE projects under development or already permitted for construction, according to the Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). “Maryland does not want Congress’ trash,” Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said during a conference call. “Maryland doesn’t generate enough trash, really, to sustain all these plants. They’re being developed and considered as a regional center for trash combustion. We would just prefer … that Congress do better at recycling and that we not get trash from the District of Columbia or surrounding areas.” Malecki said Capitol Hill already has a “very robust recycling program.” According to the AOC’s 2010 Sustainability, Energy and Water Conservation Management Report, 738 tons of waste was recycled in fiscal year 2008, a 45% increase from fiscal year 2005. “This doesn’t remove any of that from this process; it just takes the waste that we can’t recycle and takes it to the waste-to-energy facility,” Malecki said. Source: Waste & Recycling News By Shawn Wright