ALBANY: Albany City Commission of the Department of General Services
Willard (Bill) Bruce spoke at the May Save the Pine Bush dinner.
Mr. Bruce began by showing slides of how landfills are constructed.
He emphasized that the Rapp Road landfill is not just a dump,
it is a highly-engineered structure and there is a great deal
of infrastructure in the landfill.
Components of the landfill
He began with a photo of the electrical generation system
which produces electricity from methane. One of the photos
showed the by-pass flare, which burns off the methane and other
gases from the landfill. Preferably, the methane should not
be burned off and eventually, the Siemens Corporation is going
to make compressed natural gas from the methane.
The leachate from the landfill is collected in two leachate
tanks and sent to the Albany County Sewage treatment plant.
Mr. Bruce was careful to emphasize that the landfill does not
At the scale house, every truck is weighed before and after
dumping and is charged by the ton for the garbage. A massive
shredder is used at the landfill to shred and compact garbage.
What happens to the Garbage
Mr. Bruce showed photos of the recyclables which are collected.
He showed a photo of the refrigerators waiting to have the
freon removed so that they can be taken apart for scrap metal.
Propane tanks in the trash are given to a company that re-furbishes
the tanks for reuse.
Mr. Bruce then moved downtown to the DGS facility which,
he noted, was built on a closed landfill. Here, the City keeps
its compost facility. Leaves and twigs are collected by the
City, screened, shredded, and composted. This compost is used
by the city residents and city employees on yards and in the
The recyclables collected in the blue boxes by the City go
a company in Rotterdam for processing. The recyclables are
hand-sorted, and the different items are bailed into huge bails
and then sold. Newspapers, plastics, and milk cartons are all
bailed separately and sold.
The current price for newspaper is about $15/ton. Compare
this to the late 1990’s when newspaper was selling for $130/ton.
Metals are sold to Hudson River Recycling. A cutting machine
is used to cut-up the metals. Metal is in demand in Asia and
India and produces a higher price than in the US of $75/ton.
A cutting machine is used to cut up the metals.
Cast iron has a market in China and South Korea. Cast iron
items are loaded on a barge, and go to New Jersey.
Moving across the ocean, Mr. Bruce took us to Europe to show
us what is done in other countries with waste.
The first slide he showed us was of a smiling bicyclist on
top of a hill with a windmill. The photo was taken on the highest
point in Munich (a very flat city) — the closed landfill.
In Germany, burn (or Waste-to-Energy) plants are accepted
as a method to dispose of garbage. However, these plants are
very expensive to build and operate.
A law went into effect in Germany in June 2005 that prevents
any “untreated” waste
can be put into a landfill. The Germans have a very aggressive
Mr. Bruce said that although the Germans accept incineration
as one of the treatment process, burning is very unpopular
in some areas, and a lot of people do not accept incineration
as what they want to do with the garbage.
The new, up and coming treatment process is biological and
mechanical treatment. Mr. Bruce explained that an old mushroom
factory in Dresden was made into a very high-tech bio-mechanical
treatment facility, using municipal composting. About 30-40%
of the garbage is moisture, and the first step is its removal.
The facility is so high-tech, that only 3 people work at
a time, sitting behind computer screens. There is no hand-sorting,
everything is automatic.
The final product is fuel pellets. 80% of the waste is recycled,
and 20% winds up in the landfill. Construction debris (all
concrete and stone) is crushed and used as new building materials.
Food waste is composted. The plant has odor control using charcoal
Mr. Bruce was invited to Yombol, Bulgaria to help with ideas
about dealing with solid waste. Yombol is a very rural. Waste
is put into ash bins, and a lot of the waste is organic. There
were illegal dump sites everywhere. Mr. Bruce was invited to
look at setting up a regional waste management system. Mr.
Bruce showed a photo of a dump site on the edge of town. The
farmers let their pigs look for mushrooms on the dumps and
gypsies scavenge on the landfills.
Bulgaria would like to join the European Union, and to do
so they need to have better management of their solid wastes.
Flow Control — or why we don’t have such
high-tech facilities here
Mr. Bruce explained why he believed we would not get such
a high-tech facility as in Dresden - because we do not have
flow control and Federal regulation here in the U.S.
What is flow control? Flow control is where the government
determines where a municipalities solid waste will go. Disposal
of waste is dictated by regulation, say by a waste management
authority. Mr. Bruce said “We thought we had flow control when we created
the ANSWERS consortium.” However, a 1994 Supreme Court decision
said that waste authorities violated the constitution because it
restricts trade. With that decision, waste disposal is open to
market forces. Mr. Bruce said that “economics is what drives” the
disposal of solid waste.
For example, Allied Waste (BFI), ships 40,000 tons a month
of waste from other municipalities from the Selkirk rail yards
to huge landfills in Virginia, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
Its actually cheaper to ship the waste out-of-state, because
landfills in those states only charge $10/ton to dump the waste.
Editorial comment: That begs the question, should Albany’s
waste management system be driven by market forces? Should
the waste management policy in the U.S. be dictated by who
will allow the dumping of garbage the cheapest?