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How Waste-to-Energy Works

There are two waste-to-energy plants in Broward County which are owned and operated by Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc. The plants are capable of processing 4,500 tons of waste per day. In addition, they generate electricity, much of which is sold for use in local homes and businesses.

Here's how the waste-to-energy process works:

Once your garbage is picked up, trucks head to the waste-to-energy plants. There they are weighed, then enter an enclosed tipping area where waste is unloaded into a concrete storage pit. Cranes move and mix the waste, and remove bulky processable items that are too large for the furnace. (Those are removed for landfilling.)

Cranes then feed the waste into furnace hoppers, where it travels along moving metal grates. The furnace is so hot (a minimum of 1800 degrees F.) that complete combustion of materials is ensured, with little chance that unburned pollutants will be released.

As the process continues, hot gases are carried up from the grate area through boiler tubes where steam is produced from heat absorption. The gases pass from the boiler to a scrubber where they are mixed with a water mist containing lime. The gases are cooled and a chemical reaction neutralizes any acids and produces particles that can be collected.

The materials then pass through a baghouse, which works like a large vacuum cleaner, collecting particles produced in the boiler and scrubber. The cooled and cleaned gases are vented through a stack flue that is 200 feet above the ground.

The entire process is guided and monitored by operators in a central control room. All processing activities take place indoors to control dust odors, and prevent rain water from coming into contact with waste or ash. Metals in the ash are removed and recycled, and the remaining ash is landfilled in areas adjacent to the plants, called monofills. The monfills have multiple liners to prevent groundwater contamination. The water retained by the monofill liner is used in the plants, or sent to a sewage treatement plant for disposal. Waste that cannot be recycled or processed at the plants is landfilled.