After combustion takes place in our Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facilities, we are able to recover metals from the remaining ash for recycling. We recycle everything from broken office chairs to mattress springs – we even recover and recycle quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies! In total, Covanta’s facilities recycle approximately 600,000 tons of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. That’s enough steel to build over 400,000 automobiles and sufficient aluminum to manufacture more than three billion beverage cans.
Recycling metal from EfW facilities avoids a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases and recovers valuable natural resources that would have otherwise been lost in landfills. In the United States, approximately 7.5 million tons of metal goes to landfills each year. If recycled instead, that metal could be used to build more than 90 Golden Gate Bridges!
The production and mining of new steel, aluminum, copper, and other metals products is also a carbon intensive process that negatively impacts the environment. By recovering and recycling 600,000 tons of metal each year, Reliance Energy Systems save more than 1.2 million tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of pulling approximately 113,000 cars off the road for a year.
In recent years, Reliance Energy Systems has made it a priority to increase the quality and quantity of the metals we recycle. In that time, we have increased the amount of metal we recycle by 20 percent and installed new technology to improve material quality. Our regional processing facility in Fairless Hills, PA sorts metal material by type and cleans the metal, which gives us a higher-value and more saleable end product in all market conditions.
Metals Recycling in Action
While incinerators were known as polluters and dangerous to the environment, EfW plants are a net benefit for the climate and are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly one ton of greenhouse gas emissions are avoided for every ton of municipal solid waste processed at an EfW facility.
Slow Acceptance of EfW Plants
Both the U.S. and Canada currently lack the policy and regulatory framework necessary to encourage investment in recycling and EfW. However, we’re encouraged by the worldwide attention to energy and climate change which is forcing the nations to rethink how to manage resources in a sustainable manner.