Feb 7, 2013

The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio's plan for a first of its kind total recycling operation, including energy generation and a business park, was the topic of Wednesday's discussion at the Columbus Metropolitan Club.

WCBE Intern RaeGina Covington reports.


SWACO CEO, Ron Mills, and the board of trustees reached an agreement on January 8 to lease a total of 365 acres of land to Florida-based Team Gemini. Gemini is investing 300 million dollars as well as leasing the land for $1000/acre annually. It plans to construct a recycling center and an eco-park in Grove City, and will run the facilities using renewable energy. SWACO and Gemini hope to mine large amounts of recyclable materials to meet the growing demands of a green economy. Mills spoke at the Columbus Metropolitan Club Wednesday afternoon.

Mills:"I saw that technology was advancing at a pace that was going to offer opportunities to do things differently from what we've done traditionally here in America, which is landfill our waste stream to the extent that we can pick out some recyclables. We do that but it's always been a rather modest level in America."

According to the EPA, the US lead the world in producing waste in 2010, generating 250 million tons of trash. Mills says before the deal with Gemini was settled, SWACO was reaching landfill capacity, sending 1,000,000 tons of trash a year to its site south of Columbus. Mills says it made sense to tap into existing green technologies to reinvent the waste management industry.

Mills: "By that, I mean historically, we've always considered trash something that costs money to get rid of. It's a cost center. We will be turning trash management from a cost center to a true profit center. By extracting the value intrinsically contained within that trash stream."

22 acres have been set aside to build receiving and material recovery facilities. Waste that normally heads straight for the landfill will go to the receiving facility where it will be sorted. Recyclable items are then moved to material recovery. Team Gemini will pay SWACO $4.81 per net ton of trash. It anticipates recycling at least 1,000 tons a day. Doug Haughn is Gemini's CFO and a Grove City native. He says in addition to part of the facilities being housed on his great-grandfather's farmland, he's excited about what project means for the area.

Haughn: "The fact that we can also bring 300 new jobs right away and the ability to bring possible thousands of more jobs to Grove City as well as starting to take care of a landfill that isn't the most attractive thing in the world and slowly making it look better and slowly having the smells go away and slowly getting rid of that pollution and that negative or that carbon that's being produced there. Over time it's going to make Grove City a much better place."

Another 343-acre site will be home to an eco-park, a cluster of processing facilities that include greenhouses, anaerobic digesters and other green technologies. Haughn says although Gemini will be pulling materials out of the mixed waste stream, he urges the public to keep up recycling efforts and using curbside services on their end of the supply chain.

"SYNERGY CITY," as it's been dubbed by Gemini, is the first of its kind in the world, integrating green technolgies on an industrial scale. Gemini will break ground this summer and plans to be fully operational in 2016.

This is WCBE intern, RaeGina Covington