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SanCap One Source Realty ‘Green’ team makes trip to county’s Solid Waste Resource Recovery Facility

By Staff | Feb 9, 2011

Pictured from left is Kurt Harjung, Thomas Mueller, Robert Coscia and Lori Schulz during the tour of the Lee County Solid Waste Resource Recovery Facility.

The agents at SanCap One Source Realty were “green” long before “green” was fashionable. At their office, located at 695 Tarpon Bay Road, members of the “Recycle Sanibel” green team diligently recycle all waste materials just as they do in their respective homes.

Unknown to most islanders, commercial recycling is not legally mandated on Sanibel, although it is mandated in unincorporated Lee County. Some businesses voluntarily recycle because they know it is the right thing to do. Business recycling is not franchised – businesses can choose any vendor to pick up their recycling, but they must incur the cost, which is based on size and volume of recycling collected.

An in-depth discussion about commercial recycling on the Island began when Robert Coscia (who, with Sandy Ramseth, owns and operates SanCap One Source Realty) reviewed the e-mail sent by the City Manager, Judie Zimomra, to alert local business owners of the installation of dumpster lock-bars to deter raccoon activity.

The e-mail exchange between Zimomra and Coscia soon included a review of the City’s commercial recycling policy and a suggestion by the City Manager that SanCap One Source visit the Lee County Solid Waste Resource Recovery Facility, located on Buckingham Road in Fort Myers (www.leegov.com/solidwaste).

In late November 2010, the SanCap One Source green team hopped into their shiny, new, super-comfy “Island Home Adventures” van and headed for a most informative tour of the Recovery Facility (also known as the Waste-To-Energy Plant) led by Mr. Thomas Mueller, Director, Covanta Energy Group, designer, builder and operator of waste energy facilities (45 in the country so far, out of a possible 87).

The Lee County plant is one of the most advanced and integrated solid waste management systems in the United States. The facility serves the needs of unincorporated Lee County and its municipalities (including Sanibel), as well as Hendry County, processing 100 percent of the MSW (Municipal Solid Waste).

The facility commenced operations in 1994; an expansion project was initiated in 2004 and completed in 2007. The current facility houses thousands of feet of piping, 800 miles of cable, two turbine generators, three boilers, transformer, pumps, fans and control panels.

For anyone who has not toured the plant (and the SanCap team recommends that you do take the tour), here is the simple version of what happens there: trucks deliver waste, which is first weighed and monitored for safety; waste is deposited into a concrete storage pit; an overhead crane mixes the waste and removes anything that can’t be processed; a crane lifts the mixed waste and deposits it into a furnace where it is burned at a temperature of approximately 2000 degrees F; the steam from the boilers powers two turbine generators that produce enough energy to run plant equipment, in addition to enough electricity (about 85% of the total) to sell to Seminole Electric Cooperative (enough electricity to power approximately 25,000 households). All that is left of the waste after combustion is an inert ash residue (approximately 10 percent of the original volume); the ash is disposed of at a landfill. This ash is inert, as no methane gas is generated.

The facility is now able to process 1,836 tons of solid waste per day with the resultant generation of up to 57.3 megawatts of renewable energy. The entire process is continuously monitored from a central control room. The plant is equipped with air-pollution control systems as well as a permanent activated carbon injection system for controlling mercury emissions. This facility has won multiple awards for providing a sound, long-term, environmental and economic solution to solid waste disposal. In November, Lee County was presented the prestigious 2010 Sustainable Waste Management award by the Advisory Board of the Waste-To-Energy Research and Technology Council at Columbia University, recognizing the county’s accomplishment in developing and executing one of the country’s most highly advanced integrated waste management systems.

Following the trip to the Recycle Center, several members of Team Recycle Sanibel met with Judie Zimomra and Gates Castle, the City of Sanibel’s Public Works Director, to discuss commercial recycling on the Island and to share ideas and suggestions for continued recycling improvement on the Island.

The highlights of the meeting with the city were:

• All condominiums on Sanibel can recycle for free – as of Oct. 1, 2010, it is included in the city contract with Violia. If your condo does not recycle, ask the management to set it up. Recyclables do not need to be separated.

• Some of the biggest commercial recyclers on the island are Bailey’s General Store and Jerry’s Market.

• Per Gates Castle, the estimated waste off island in 2009 included 8,100 tons of solid waste, 1,300 tons of recyclables and 3,800 tons of vegetative waste.

• The city has no plans to make commercial recycling mandatory unless it is brought up to the council and agreed upon.

Sanibel usually sets an example that other communities emulate in terms of issues impacting the environment. Citizens are encouraged to express opinions about commercial recycling by sending comments and suggestions to sancouncil@mysanibel.com and/or by attending council meetings.

To learn more about the Lee County Solid Waste Resource Recovery Facility, check out the website (www.leegov.com/solidwaste) or call them at 239-338-3302. To learn more about SanCap One Source’s “Recycle Sanibel Green Team,” call 239-472-3334 or check out their website (/www.sancaponesource.com).