Published On: Sat, Dec 29th, 2018

TRASH TALK

By Robert S Weinroth

One of the responsibilities assigned to the Palm Bech County Board of County Commissioners is to oversee the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County as its Board of Directors. It’s day to day operations are the responsibility of its newly appointed executive director, Dan Pellowitz.

During its most recent organizational meeting, the county commissioners elected me to be the vice-chair of the SWA board. And so it was inevitable that I (along with my legislative aides, Alexandria Ayala and Jon Carter) would take some time to become more familiar with the operations of this essential government agency.

The Solid Waste Authority is responsible for providing an economical and environmentally conscious Integrated Solid Waste Management System for Palm Beach County.

With approximately 400 employees, the SWA provides solid waste disposal and recycling services and programs to the county’s 1.4 million residents and businesses and also provides solid waste and recycling collection services to the residents and businesses in unincorporated Palm Beach County through private haulers.

The mission of the SWA is to manage the materials discarded by the residents and businesses of Palm Beach County in a manner consistent with its legislative mandate, applicable local, state and federal ordinances, regulations and laws.

The SWA has built an award-winning integrated system of facilities that combines recycling, renewable energy and land filling to effectively manage the county’s waste. The SWA’s system includes two waste-to-energy facilities, landfills, a materials recycling facility, a biosolids processing facility, seven household hazardous waste collection facilities and a network of six transfer stations.

The programs developed and implemented by the SWA are designed to integrate solid waste transportation, processing, recycling, resource recovery and disposal technologies, protect the environment, achieve the state’s 75 percent recycling and waste reduction goal and inform the public about solid waste management issues.

Recycling is supported by a continuing educational program to help residents understand how and what to recycle. Many well-meaning residents do not recycle effectively causing the recycle stream to be contaminated thus increasing costs to the county.

The SWA provides business with Waste Reviews so they can better manage their garbage and recyclables. For residents, the SWA offers onsite tours for school and community groups (over 1,400 since 2009) and educational presentations coupled with recycling education materials.

In the first five months of 2018, over 30 tons of paper was recycled for net revenue to the county of over $1.5 million. The combined total of recyclables (including paper, glass and plastic) exceeded 48 tons with net revenues exceeding $3.7 million.

Since 2010, under a revenue share program, over $9.5 million in net revenue was distributed to Palm Beach county cities. Boca Raton has received the biggest share of those funds ($1.4 million), followed by West Palm Beach ($1.3) and Delray Beach ($885,000).

Events generate a significant amount of recyclable material. The 2017 Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl produced 3.2 tons of recyclable material.

Residents, however, need to understand that unless the materials are properly separated, its value is diminished. One simple behavioral change is to refrain from placing contaminated materials (e.g., pizza boxes) in with the recyclables.  It is also important to realize that materials placed at the curb (e.g. cardboard boxes) that have not been cut down to fit in the yellow bin will not be recycled. Those materials will likely be handled as a bulk pickup item and, ultimately, used to generate electrical energy as part of the county’s Waste-to-Energy program.

The SWA Waste-to-Energy facility reduces the volume of waste disposed in the landfill while producing clean energy from household garbage. According to the EPA, WTE plants are a “clean, reliable, renewable source of energy” that generate electricity “with less environmental impact than almost any other source of electricity.” In fact, WTE plants improve air quality by decreasing the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas.

Additionally, the SWA uses landfill gas, which consists primarily of methane, as a renewable energy source to produce clean energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.

At the SWA’s Biosolids Processing Facility, landfill gas is used to power the sludge dryers as an alternative to natural gas. The SWA and its partners constructed this facility to provide for the efficient and environmentally safe disposal of sludge from wastewater treatment plants. Sludge is dried, pelletized and sold to fertilizer blenders as a natural and nutrient rich component of commercial fertilizers.

A big thank you to Mr. Pellowitz and Patrick Carroll (Director Facilties Development); Mark Eyeington (COO); Ramana Kari (Chief Engineer); Mary Beth Morrison (Dir of Environmental Programs); Aurora Ortiz (Educational Specialist); and Ray Schauer (Dir of Engineering & Public Works) for taking the time out of your busy schedules to give us a behind the scenes look at how our county has become a model for municipalities throughout the world in the way we handle our trash.

To learn more about the SWA and how our county is working to be environmentally friendly, go to: SWA.org

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. As a newly elected County Commissioner, Weinroth has been appointed Vice-Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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