As the Waste Expo hits New Orleans, recycling is a top topic
Shana Rose Reporting
North America's largest trade event for the waste and recycling industry starts today at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
It's the 45th annual WasteExpo Conference and Exhibition with more than 12,000 public and private sector professionals and 550 exhibitors are expected attend.
It's a huge industry as Americans now throw out more than four pounds of garbage per person per day. And New Orleans, with more than 9 million visitors each year for Mardi Gras, music festivals, sporting events and general tourism, itself produces nearly 173,000 tons of waste each year according to WasteExpo officials.
What to do with all of it? At this convention they're looking at technological innovation to recycle and compost more, create energy from waste and use less energy to collect and manage all of it.
Just what happens to all of those recyclables you dump in that container every week? The Director of Communications for the National Solid Waste Management Association, Tom Metzger, says the truck that collects them dumps them at a mostly automated facility that uses conveyor belts, and then "Sensors can, using magnets pull out certain metals, using laser technology can identify the specific type of plastic that is there and using puffs of air can blow plastic bottles off the conveyer."
Those sorted, recycled materials are then sold on the world market, he says, as they are now another commodity, like oil or corn or orange juice.
Recycling is even more cost effective as record amounts of Americans participate. And you don't have to even feel guilty about just throwing out trash, as the industry is using your garbage to generate energy...a lot of it. "Waste based energy, which is a huge part of what we call biofuels, actually generates more power than solar, wind and hydroelectric, combined," says Metzger.
And those numbers are growing. He says the EPA estimates the 600 landfills being used now to capture methane could double, which also reduces the greenhouse gases all our trash emites.
Metzger says they also incinerate trash to generate enough power for about a half a million homes.