News

Recycling and the ECUA: Past, Present, and Future
01/12/2016

History

The ECUA first considered constructing a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and providing curbside collection of recyclables in 1995.  However, Escambia County filed a lawsuit at that time and was granted a permanent injunction that prevented the ECUA from constructing a MRF without Escambia County’s approval.

In 2005, the ECUA obtained a legal opinion that stated that the Authority could provide collection of recyclables, but would have to contract with a third party to process the recyclables due to the permanent injunction.

In late 2008, the ECUA reached an agreement with Gulf Coast Recycling to process recyclables and the ECUA Board approved the start of the first curbside recycling program in Escambia County.  Thus, the ECUA’s voluntary residential curbside recycling program began on January 1, 2009.

 In July 2010, the ECUA signed an agreement with West Florida Recycling to process recyclables collected by the ECUA and begin recycling of glass, which was not accepted by Gulf Coast Recycling. 

West Florida Recycling was the only recyclables processor in the region and was accepting recyclables from several counties.  Everyone was utilizing WFR, because there was no other alternative.  Eventually WFR was handling more recyclables than the size of the facility could handle.  That, coupled with a downturn in the recyclables commodities market and a stormwater management problem at the WFR site, caused the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to revoke WFR’s permit and the facility closed in April 2014.  

Because the ECUA foresaw the possibility of WRF’s closure, it had developed a contingency plan and began hauling recyclables to Atlanta, GA. for several weeks, preventing the landfilling of its collected recyclables.  This was considered a stop-gap measure until the Infinitus Renewable Energy Park (IREP) in Montgomery, AL, then under construction, opened in May, 2014.  The ECUA had negotiated and approved a two-year agreement with IREP to process the ECUA’s recyclables.  The IREP facility in Montgomery was the only facility within a reasonable distance that could process the 22,000 tons of recyclables collected by ECUA annually.  By this time, approximately 66% of ECUA’s residential sanitation customer bases were participating in the voluntary recycling program.

In July 2015, it became clear that the ECUA and IREP would not be able to reach an agreement on extending the two-year contract for processing of ECUA’s recyclables.  With that realization, the ECUA requested and received, for the first time, approval from Escambia County to allow the ECUA to construct a MRF to process recyclables.   The ECUA Board approved creation of a project to construct the MRF as quickly as possible to ensure the facility would be completed by the end of the IREP contract in May 2016.

In October 2015, IREP closed its doors with minimal (1 day) notice and stopped accepting ECUA’s recyclables, due to a dispute between IREP and the City of Montgomery, AL, its primary customer.  At its December 2015 meeting, the ECUA Board voted to proceed with a suit against IREP for breach of contract.  Only one other recyclables processor existed in the area, Tarpon Paper Company (TPC) of Loxley, AL, and they could accept only a small portion of the recyclables generated by the ECUA (30%).   As such, the majority of collected recyclables began to be landfilled and, as much tonnage as possible was delivered to the small local processor.  Tarpon had struggled to accept loads from ECUA, often turning trucks away at the gate citing over-capacity or equipment issues.   On December 14, 2015, TPC began charging a tipping fee for recyclables (where there had been none previously) that, when combined with the transportation costs and the reliability issues, forced the ECUA to stop utilizing the facility and therefore landfill all recyclables.  The ECUA is requesting that customers continue to utilize the recycling program as if the recyclables were still being processed to stay in the habit until the ECUA MRF is completed and in the event that another recyclables processor is identified in the meantime.  It is very important that only recyclables continue to be placed in the recycling containers.   

Current Activities

With the cooperation of Escambia County, which approved ECUA’s request to construct and operate a MRF facility, ECUA is now proceeding with the construction of an interim MRF.   The facility currently being constructed by the ECUA is planned to be a regional facility, able to handle not only ECUA’s recyclables, but those from other agencies and municipalities in adjoining counties as well.

ECUA staff and its consultants looked for existing buildings in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties that could house the proposed ECUA MRF; however no suitable facilities were available.  Therefore, a site at the Escambia County-owned and operated Perdido Landfill was identified.   Once again, Escambia County cooperated with the ECUA to reach an Interlocal Agreement to site the ECUA MRF at the Perdido Landfill, which was approved by both the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners and the ECUA Board in October 2015.

The ECUA has purchased a state of the art recyclables sorting system capable of sorting 25 tons per hour of recyclables.  This equipment is currently being fabricated and will be ready for installation as soon as the site and building are complete at the Perdido Landfill.  

A fabric building that is 330’ long, 162’ wide and 52’ high is currently being fabricated to house the recyclables sorting equipment.   

The ECUA Board approved a contract for the required site work to construct the MRF at its December 2015 meeting, and site work will commence after January 1, 2016.  The ECUA MRF is expected to be complete and operational by mid-2016.  

The ECUA MRF is an interim facility that can handle all recyclables until a possibly larger project could be completed in the next three to five years.

Future

The ECUA and Escambia County are currently negotiating with Mustang Renewable Power to possibly construct an Advanced Mixed Waste Processing Facility (AMRF) at the Perdido Landfill.  Mustang was selected for this project through a joint Escambia County / ECUA procurement in an effort to meet the State of Florida’s 75% recycling goal.

If approved, this facility would extract recyclables from the garbage stream as well as sorting the existing recyclables stream from the ECUA and other sources.   The equipment utilized by the ECUA in the Interim MRF will be utilized to process recyclables in the Mustang Facility.  If this project is approved by both the ECUA and Escambia County, construction of the AMRF would be funded by the private operator Mustang, with no public sector funding.