Florida turns Irma debris into energy

The state will likely incinerate its debris to create electricity.

September 25, 2017

Florida will likely incinerate its Hurricane Irma debris to create energy, a report by Bloomberg says. Waste incinerators are common around the state’s southern lip and up the Gulf Coast.

According to the report, ten waste-to-energy (WTE) plants in the state converted 4.5 million tons of waste into 3.5 million megawatt-hours in 2016, account for 2 percent for the state’s overall power. The report says WTE makes up less than 0.5 percent of U.S. electricity production.

In Florida WTE facilities, the waste that cannot be recycled is placed into an incinerator. The heat produced by the burning waste is used to run steam generators and leftover ash is landfilled. According to the report, the state incinerated 12 percent of its waste, recycled 44 percent and landfill another 44 percent in 2016.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) worked with local municipalities and facilities to set up disaster debris sites before Irma hit. After the storms, DEP worked with multiple state and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to handle waste. The report says waste piles were already high at these sites, with residents increasing their disposal rates in anticipation for the storm.

According to the report, Kimberly Byer, solid waste director for Hillsborough County, says there has been a 20 percent waste increase in its initial cleanup. The WTE facility in the county uses 565,000 tons per year to produce 45 megawatts of power, enough for 30,000 homes.