Waste-to-energy plant going through trash shortage - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Waste-to-energy plant going through trash shortage

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC)- It may seem calm and quiet on the outside, but once you step inside it is anything but peaceful. The Waste-to-Energy plant in Rochester has been in operation for over 25 years and offers Olmsted and Dodge counties a unique power source.

"It processes the raw waste that people produce, the garbage, into three products: steam, electricity and ash," explains John Helmers, the Environmental Resources Director.

It is a team effort of almost 50 plant workers, including operators for the garbage-collecting crane.

"They're fluffing the garbage, they're breaking it apart, trying to get a good homogenous mix of what we have," says Matt Anderson, a plant engineer. "Then they can take a load of that trash and put it into the burner."

Studies show that waste-to-energy offers cleaner emissions compared to coal, natural gas and oil, but Helmers explains that the plant may be running into a bit of a garbage shortage.

"So, we had made some projections based on past results on the amount of waste coming in, and we had been projecting that we would have slightly over 100,000 tons per year as of last year, and last year we only had about 85,000 tons."

The garbage you are throwing away right now, your everyday garbage, could be used to help energize Olmsted and Dodge counties. A shortage may exist right now, but that does not necessarily mean the more garbage the better.

In fact, the plant does not expect more garbage in their regular counties, so they are expanding their horizons.

"It has to be the right kind of trash," says Helmers, "and we are actually working with out-of-county businesses to bring additional waste into the system to help pay for some of those fixed costs that we have."

The plant is still operating even with the current shortage, and any talk of the plant going through future struggles?

Well, that is just complete garbage.

The Olmsted County Board voted in December on a waste fee change that is set to go into effect in May because of the shortage, bringing down the out-of-county charge to entice more people to bring their waste to the plant.

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