Cleveland's incinerator plans don't add up

CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland is basing its plans to build a garbage incinerator, and its proposed air pollution permit, on a design prepared by developer Princeton Environmental Group (PEG), under the direction of Peter Tien.  City officials are also presenting information to the public in a series of meetings being held around the city in January and February.

But the numbers in the city’s presentations and reports from Princeton Environmental Group don’t add up.

   For example:

Incinerator fuel numbers

The “Basis of Design” report submitted to Cleveland Public Power by Princeton Environmental Group on August 31, 2011 to Cleveland, says that the incinerator will be designed to burn 500 tons per day of pellets made of trash, called “Refused Derived Fuel” or “RDF,” to produce 15 megawatts of electricity (p. 57).   In a November 16, 2011 presentation to Cleveland City Council, Cleveland Public Power stated that 15-20 tons of fuel pellets can be made from 100 tons of garbage (p. 36).  If we assume the high end of that range, where 100 tons of trash makes 20 tons of pellets, then it would take 2500 tons of trash a day to make enough pellets to run the incinerator.

According to its own reports the City of Cleveland only generates between 756 and 991 tons of trash each day.  To make up the difference to get to 2500 tons per day, Cleveland would have to take in at least 1500 tons of additional garbage each day from other communities.  But in presentations to the public and City Council last week, city officials repeatedly stated that the City would not take other communities’ garbage to feed the incinerator.

Recycling numbers

Even if the city implements curbside recycling,its stated goal is to recycle “up to 25%” of its garbage.

The “Basis of Design” report lists the recyclable percentage of different kinds of materials in Cleveland’s waste stream. (p. 15).   For example, it says that of the paper waste collected, 60% is recyclable.  Notwithstanding the fact that other Cuyahoga County communities are already achieving higher recycling rates, PEG says that  32.92% of collected waste is readily recyclable. And the city’s own  presentation says that “approximately 62% of the current waste stream is recyclable,” (p. 28).  Why would the City’s stated goal be 25% when their lead designer says that 32.92% can be recycled, and the City says 62% can be recycled?

— Nathan Rutz, Cleveland campaign organizer, Ohio Citizen Action