Saturday, November 9, 2013

Economic Development At The White Street Landfill: Part 1

For years we've heard talk about what to do with the old White Street Landfill, now closed to MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) and owned by the City of Greensboro. To understand how the old landfill can be put to use we need to understand the assets we have there and what can be done with them.

For starters, there is over $1 Million Dollars of landfill gas (Methane) that is given away at no charge every year to Cone Mills which hasn't been locally owned in about 30 or so years.

Then there's the 500 acres-- half of the total landfill property-- that has never been used for a landfill and could be used for anything the City of Greensboro wants to use it for.

There's the contents of the landfill that could someday be mined and recycled along with the contents of the original Greensboro Town Dump (1808 until the 1940s?) located at approximately 500 S. English St also in East Greensboro.

And finally there's easy access via East Cone Blvd which lies just 1300 feet from the edge of the White Street Landfill in an almost direct line with the existing scales and has already been rough graded to 4 lanes and a median.

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Now let's think of something that Greensboro currently has lots of and has to get rid of, that item being glass. Glass is recycled by separating it by grades and colors then grinding it into a product known as cullet. Cullet is in-fact, glass that is ready to be melted down and recycled into new glass.

It just so happens that the closest place that grinds glass into cullet happens to be in Durham. And they only accept bottles. The closest place that accepts and actually grinds plate glass is in Raleigh. You might call around and find someone closer willing to buy a tractor-trailer load of used glass but you'll be dealing with a broker and not someone who actually owns a cullet grinding operation.

Grinding cullet is relatively simple. Basically the cullet grinding machine is a big rubber lined, steel tank that revolves 'round and 'round until the glass inside beats itself into little pieces much like the rock tumbler you might have had when you were a kid. The biggest difference is that the largest cullet grinders are big enough to fit a small car inside. Landfill gas could easily power cullet grinders.

The closest place that actually recycles cullet into new glass is east of Raleigh. Making glass requires lots of gas to melt the glass. And the White Street Landfill has lots of gas. The $Million Dollars that is given away each year is no where near all the gas there, most of the gas is burned off, wasted.

And did I mention that while glass is one of the lowest paying recyclables the City of Greensboro currently sells it is also one of the most expensive to ship? Greensboro's recycling program would without a doubt be a lot more cost effective if we were being paid market rates to White Street rather than to Durham, Raleigh or beyond.

If I were a member of the Greensboro City Council I'd be looking at ways to lure a glass recycler to occupy a portion of the White Street Landfill. It just makes cents.

Stay tuned and I'll tell you how part of  that same property could be turning waste wood pallets and other waste wood into clean burning fuel pellets to be exported to Europe. Were you aware that 100% of the wood pellets produced in North Carolina are exported to Europe to be burned in power plants there? And they're all made from new trees.

Fact is: that 500 acre plot could employ 10,000 or more people in green, good paying jobs at very little cost to the City of Greensboro if we can just keep the developers out of the way.