June 25, 2018
Focus: Energy

Fiberight waste-to-energy site to convert tons of trash to energy or recycling

When the Fiberight Corp. waste-to-energy plant goes online in Hampden later this year, it's going to take on an awesome task — converting 80% of the waste it takes in either into renewable energy or recycling it. On average, more than half the waste Americans produce goes into landfills.

It will process 180,000 tons of municipal trash a year from 115 municipalities once it's fully operational. What will come out is clean cellulose, bio-gas, plastics and engineered fuel, metals, waste paper and corrugated cardboard.

"We're not just bringing stuff in and sorting," Craig Stuart-Paul, CEO of the Catonsville, Md.-based Fiberight, said on a media tour of the under-construction plant in early June. "It all gets processed."

The plant cost $70 million, and was financed with a $45 million Finance Authority of Maine tax-exempt bond issuance underwritten by Jefferies LLC and $25 million in private equity, according to Waste360.

High-tech process

The Hampden plant uses a high-tech process to sort, recycle, reuse and refine the waste. The process has been tested in at Fiberight's Virginia prototype plant for several years, but the Hampden facility will be the largest use of the technology, Stuart-Paul says.

In simple terms, the process starts when rubbish bags are machine- shredded, the waste goes through a series of screens, and is separated and channeled according to size and type.

The organic waste eventually goes into a "pulper" that breaks down the material, forming a biomass and removing contaminants and remaining recyclables, like metals. The pulp is converted to fuel in the anaerobic digester.

Recycling plans include possible separate processes for textiles, glass and mixed paper.

There is also a plan for turning plastic into fuel. "We're starting off by making a solid plastic fuel that replaces coal and coal products for industrial users," says Stuart-Paul. "This product burns cleaner than coal. In the long term we plan to augment this process by the addition of a system that will convert waste plastics into a low-sulphur synthetic oil that burns cleaner than traditional heating oil. Both will help stabilize energy costs for industrial and commercial users in Maine, while also offering a lower emissions product."

The plant is on schedule to begin recycling in September. The recycling equipment arrives in early July.

The back end, including the anaerobic digester, which has a 600,000-gallon reactor, will start construction in August and running by the end of the year.

"The whole idea is to use as much of the waste stream as possible," Stuart-Paul says.

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