A look inside the renovated recycle facility
For the first time since late 2015, Montgomery is preparing to fire up its recycling facility.
In the coming weeks, Repower South will ramp up machinery to fine tune the addition of more than $10 million in equipment to the existing $37 million facility before running all of the city’s trash through the building sometime in January.
“Everybody wants a start date,” said Scott Montgomery, president of Repower. But the intricate configuration of the massive facility means workers need time to make various tweaks before going full bore.
On Wednesday, the Montgomery Advertiser toured the facility to learn how new additions to the facility will help overcome problems that plagued Infinitus Renewable Energy Park, the previous operators, and drove them into bankruptcy.
One of the most important new features of the facility will be the ability to convert non-commodity recyclables into fuel that will be sold to coal-burning manufacturers. Montgomery said the paper-plastic mix will be tied to the price of coal, though sold at a lower price, and mixed in at factories.
That technology, promised by IREP, never came before the group shuttered.
Things such as plastic bags from grocery stores, black plant pots, Styrofoam and paper towels are the types of things that will be used to make fuel.
There are locations in Prattville and Birmingham already set to buy the fuel, Montgomery said. Initially, it will come in the form of little scraps, though they hope to eventually convert it into pellets. Despite the fuel containing plastic, its burning and subsequent pollutants will be filtered out at the factories.
President Scott Montgomery gives a tour of the newly renovated RePower South recycling plant in Montgomery, Ala., on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (Photo: Jake Crandall/ Advertiser)
“We’ve grown up not throwing plastic in the campfire,” Montgomery said, adding that the process is much different and cleaner. Ahead of opening, the Environmental Protection Agency has already cleared the fuel as a coal replacement.
By weight, 40 percent of the waste will be sold as commodities, another 40 percent will be sent to the landfill, and the last 20 percent will be fuel.
Another new piece of technology, which cost $750,000, will shred trash into small sub-2 foot long pieces that will prevent machines from jamming and remove the need for humans to pick through some of the nastiest trash, he said, which was an undesirable position at the old facility that led many works to quit after only a short time on the job.
All 70 employees who will eventually work for the company will make at least $11 per hour and have benefits, Montgomery said. Rather than a simple disposal service, Repower considers itself to be a manufacturer, like Kia and Hyundai.
“China has increased standards in which they are going to buy commodities,” Montgomery said, which means the facility needs to have tight controls and trusted workers to ensure a workable product.
His said they need to receive about 120,000 tons of waste. In its final year under IREP, the facility received only 78,000 tons of trash from the city and approximately another 24,000 tons hauled in from north Florida and areas around Montgomery.
Montgomery said he believes there will already be plenty of trash brought in from the city and Advanced Disposal, a waste company whose trash they have contracted to take. Still, they will continue to look for other sources of trash, such as Selma, Maxwell Air Force Base and single-stream commercial sources. The facility has the capacity for 150,000 tons, he said.
There is also a 10 percent profit share in place with the city, depending on Repower’s numbers.
More: City officially acquires IREP recycling facility
For the average Montgomerian, little will change. They will still throw all of their waste in a single bin. Medical waste, construction debris and motor oil will not be accepted. Yard waste, which many do throw in their trash, will not be accepted, though the city plans to pick it up next to the bins each Wednesday.
Montgomery said the facility is unlike most others in the country, which still use landfills and sell recyclables on the commodity market from single sort bins.
“This facility is unique and Montgomery is unique because other than California, no one is doing this,” Montgomery said.
Andrew Yawn contributed to this report
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