City Council this week heard of plans for a new eco-friendly trash facility planned for Northeast Philadelphia that officials said would guarantee about $5 million a year in business for minority- and women-owned firms.
That figure hinges on Council’s approval of a new waste disposal contract that features the construction of a plant that would convert the city’s trash into fuel. It will be one of only two such plants in the nation.
“We’re going to see many benefits from this new deal,” Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson told Council. “We were in competition with other cities for this innovation.”
Members learned of the plans for the $22 million facility Wednesday during hearings on two bills that give contracts worth $256 million over the next four years to Waste Management and Covanta 4 Recovery for hauling and getting rid of the city’s trash. Tolson said that represented a savings of about $7 million a year. In addition, she projected that the plant would generate about $1.25 million annually in tax revenue.
The plant, which is expected to be built later this year in the Northeast, harvests recyclables from the city’s 143,000 tons of trash then turns the remaining solids into fuel pellets that can replace coal at chemical manufacturing plants, cement kilns and electric generation plants.
“Now instead of that trash going to a landfill it will be going to a waste to energy facility, or this spec fuel plant,” she said. “Under these contracts no pre-processed waste will be landfilled.”
According to Tolson, the plant, which will be owned by Waste Management, would process 500 to 1,200 tons of trash a day, and produce enough fuel to generate power for 150,000 homes. It would also create 25 full-time jobs, most of them skilled jobs like equipment operator and plant operator.
Residue created by the making of the pellets would go to landfills.
The gain for minority businesses would come in hauling the trash, Tolson said, adding that the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity had signed off on the deal.
Both companies have agreed to give their hauling contracts to minority- or women-owned firms, specified in the contracts, but not yet named publicly. That would provide $5 million a year in business for those firms — which would collect trash and haul the waste to other facilities.
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown asked how the city verified that participation rate. Tolson replied that the OEO handled the verification, again noting that it has signed off on the plan.
Waste Management has a test facility in San Antonio, Texas, and the company’ s vice president for the mid-Atlantic region, Tara Hemmer, said the company is creating a market for the fuel, noting that all of the pellets created in Texas had been sold.
Tolson extolled the plans as “a major step in the greening of our city.”
A vote on the proposal is expected next month.
Councilman Jim Kenney asked if any of the jobs at the plant could be given to ex-offenders.
Hemmer said Waste Management would be open to the idea, but noted that most of the jobs were skilled positions requiring some sort of training.
“It’s really very specialized equipment,” Hemmer said. “They’re higher paying, skilled jobs with a minimal number of entry level positions.”
Overall, the contracts would not create any new jobs for the city, because the new deal eliminates a contract with a company called Republic that operates two trash facilities that currently employ about 25 people.