LETTER: Covanta's response to "Covanta and the implications of sorted vs. unsorted recycling"

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After reading Eleanor Prices’ op-ed about recycling, it’s clear that misperceptions still linger about Covanta’s energy-from-waste operations and the company’s plan to improve recycling in Marion County. We share the passion that many Hoosiers have for the environment, and welcome the dialog on this important issue.

Since 1988, the Covanta Energy-from-Waste facility in Indianapolis has helped divert 13.5 million tons of waste from landfills by converting trash into clean energy for the city. Our emissions control technology scrubs and filters all combustion gas to ensure safe operations. In fact, Covanta’s facilities nationwide outperform state and federal environmental mandates by 60-80 percent.

Unlike incinerators, which do not generate electricity and are unable to recover metal for recycling, the Covanta Energy-from-Waste facility removes ferrous and non-ferrous metals from the ash for recycling. Years of testing have proven that such ash is safe for disposal and reuse.

As for the debate over Indy’s recycling program, the Covanta Advanced Recycling Center, set to open in 2016, will increase the recycling rate by 500 percent with automatic participation by residents guaranteed. This increase comes at no cost to the taxpayers thanks to Covanta’s $45 million investment, allowing the city to budget for other badly needed services. Whether we like it or not, these are all economic issues that require careful consideration to create real-world solutions. 

Our single-bin solution to combine trash and recyclable materials without any sorting required will recover up to 80-90 percent of recyclable materials, including paper, cardboard, plastics and metal – and far exceed the recycle rates of the current curbside program. This state-of-the-art technology, which has been implemented successfully around the world, will minimize contamination and recover valuable recyclable materials that are marketable to downstream recyclers for use in new products. 

We take our role as environmental stewards very seriously and use sophisticated technology to generate clean, renewable energy at our Energy-from-Waste facility. Like you, we applauded Governor Pence in 2013 when he set a goal to recycle 50 percent of Indiana’s waste stream. Covanta’s plan is guaranteed to move Indianapolis closer to that goal with a next-generation recycling solution. 

Scott Holkeboer, Market Area Vice President, Covanta Indianapolis