Kentucky Energy Secretary Charles Snavely and Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch, D-13, did the honors at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Waste Management’s new sustainable energy facility. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

Waste Management unveiled a new $30 million renewal energy infrastructure Tuesday at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility.

Tim Wells, area vice president of Waste Management, told the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that the new technology is part of the waste disposal company’s commitment to reduce harmful emissions.

“The Outer Loop facility accepts approximately one million tons of waste a year from area businesses and homes. This project closes the loop. This new facility will produce enough pipeline-quality natural gas each day to fuel 800 of our CNG (compressed natural gas) collection vehicles across North America or power up to 14,000 homes a day,” Wells said.

Houston-based Waste Management provides collection, transfer, recycling and resource recovery, and disposal services throughout the United States. The infrastructure at the Outer Loop facility is the first of its size for the company and will serve as a template for a planned rollout of the technology nationwide.

Much of the waste that goes into landfills is organic, that includes food and cardboard. Bacteria digest this material to produce natural byproduct like the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide.

Waste Management said its new technology will capture the methane through a series of interconnected wells and convert it into pipeline-quality natural gas. The process will reduce the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are harmful to the environment, by more than 80 percent, the company said.

Waste Management’s Outer Loop facility will use state of the art technology to turn methane into natural gas. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

Like wind, solar and other biofuels, landfill gas is a renewable source of fuel and energy endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Charles Snavely commended Waste Management at the ceremony for showing that sustainability doesn’t have to come at the expense of profitability. The secretary said there are eight other facilities in the state that are converting methane to natural gas and 27 additional facilities capable of doing so.

“It’s a great example of what we’re doing with sustainability in Kentucky. It started in the ’90s when we began the contained solid waste landfills, and it’s continuing now as we are taking the methane from those landfills and converting it to a renewable resource. This is the largest facility in the state. It’s a great example that sustainability is good business, and we appreciate Waste Management taking this step on their own to capture this renewable resource and make use of it,” Snavely added.

Emily Carpenter, executive director of the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition, also attended the ceremony. Her organization is a nonprofit that acts as a transportation fuel resource for Kentucky educators, consumers and providers of advanced transportation technologies.

Waste Management is a longtime member of the group’s Green Fleets of the Bluegrass program, which aims to improve the environmental performance of vehicle fleets by reducing petroleum fuel use. Waste Management spent $30 million several years ago to convert its fleet of local collection trucks from diesel to a compressed natural gas.

“Waste Management, by converting its fleet, has reduced its use of conventional fuel by millions of gallons. That has translated to thousands of tons of greenhouses gases that were not emitted because of the company’s remarkable efforts,” Carpenter said. “This new project with its state of the art technology allows Waste Management to have an even bigger impact on reducing those emissions.”

Emily Carpenter, executive director of the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition, waits with the crowd for a tour of Waste Management’s new sustainable energy facility. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

Metro Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch, D-13, spoke to the crowd not only as a representative of the area that includes the landfill but also as a neighbor. Welch lives in Yorktown off the National Turnpike, which is just across the railroad tracks from the Outer Loop facility.

“I’ve seen the improvement, and I’ve been able to not smell the improvements, which is great. There is almost no odor anymore from Waste Management, and I appreciate that living just across the tracks,” Welch said. “I can’t say enough good things about Waste Management. They have always been a leader in sustainability and a good partner to our community.”

Michael L. Jones
Michael L. Jones, a freelance journalist and author, covers communities for Insider Louisville. His latest book "Louisville Jug Music: From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee" (History Press) received the 2014 Samuel Thomas Book Award from the Louisville Historical League. In addition to his contributions to Insider, his writing appears regularly in LEO Weekly, Louisville Magazine, Food & Dining – Louisville Edition, and Who’s Who Louisville: African American Profiles. He also sits on the board of directors of the National Jug Band Jubilee. Jones and his wife, Melissa Amos-Jones, a physical therapist, live in the Kenwood Hills neighborhood near Iroquois Park.