P3 + C4 + E3 + R4 = a 20/20 foresight for a public-private partnership for solid waste solutions for Broward County, Florida

Ram N. Tewari
Director, Solid Waste Operations Division
Broward County, Florida

  Figure 1

The title was not only meant to draw your attention but also to describe succinctly the formula developed by Broward County to deal with the solid waste. Broward County, covering 1,200 square miles (about two-thirds is conservation area-wetlands) and located on the southeast coast of Florida, has a population of about 1.7 million people and is a racially diverse county—minorities are almost 45 percent of the population. The County continues to experience tremendous growth and in the next 30 years it will exceed 2.5 million, the largest population increase among Florida's 67 counties. The County ranks as the 15th largest county in the United States and second largest county in the State of Florida. Broward County has 31 municipalities and a small unincorporated area (Figure 1).

Protecting Broward County's natural resources and providing quality public service is the mission of the Broward County Commission. The County has an innovative, forward-thinking, diversified County Commission which is perfectly poised to make good things happen for County residents. Last year, it welcomed more than nine million visitors to its picturesque natural preserves and sunny beaches, who contributed $8 billion to the local economy.

The County annually generates approximately 2.9 million tons of MSW (about nine pounds per person per day [pppd] which is more than double the national average of 4.4 pppd) which is expected to rise because of urban infilling. There was no way the County could effectively and safely continue to dispose of this amount by landfilling and recycling alone. Therefore, in the early 1980s Broward County began to look at the Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) approach because at that time landfill disposal capacity was becoming scarce throughout the country and the federal and state governments were promoting ISWM. The County made five smart moves to put a check on this growing solid waste problem: planning for a resource recovery system (or waste-to-energy, WTE); bringing the solid waste and energy problems together and keeping the environmental protection in focus; developing a unique public-private partnership; creating calculated moves for funding; and the fifth and final move was to increase source reduction, diversion, and recycling.

The privatization trend has been spurred by sheer economics, because economies of scale have become more important in the solid waste management field. Some critics have opposed privatization because they believe that privatization hurts competition and potentially enables large companies to dominate the market. In my opinion, privatization in a framework that creates a competitive mix of large, midsize and small companies should be the goal.

Important issues which were taken into consideration by the County for Public-Private Partnership (P3) for municipal solid waste (MSW) management were Collaboration, Cooperation, Compromise and Communication (C4), Efficiency, Economics and Environment (E3), and Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Residue (R4 - a solid waste hierarchy). Other corollary issues also factored in were finances, accountability, liability, legal (good contracts), flexibility and monitoring (facilities, flow control, and contracts compliance). Sustainability, a critical environmental, economic and quality-of-life issue, was assigned a higher value in decision making. This cost-efficient approach adopted by the County is contributing to overall environmental, economic, and social vitality of the region.

The majority of solid waste management in Broward County is privatized and is distributed among large, midsize and small companies. Collection, processing (WTE), recycling, alternate disposal and recycling, and landfilling are being successfully managed by P3.

Overview of Resource Recovery System (RRS)
The Inter-local Agreement (ILA) created Broward Solid Waste Disposal District (BSWDD); Resource Recovery System Facilities; Resource Recovery Board (RRB), the governing board for BSWDD which has nine elected members from partner cities and County; and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). TAC, advisor to RRB, is comprised of city and county staff and representatives from private waste haulers, recyclers, and community/environmental interests.

I. History/Origin of Resource Recovery Facilities. Late 1970s: diminishing landfill capacity, landfilling perceived as an environmentally undesirable method of solid waste disposal. Early 1980s: The County desires to establish comprehensive state-of-the-art waste-to-energy facilities (two regional: one north, one south) available with sufficient capacity for the entire county. Mid-1980s: The County hires an engineering consulting firm to evaluate resource recovery technologies and to develop and implement the regional plan for MSW for the next 25 years and beyond. The County prepares competitive solicitation, acquires two properties for facilities and a 600-acre landfill site in the south for unprocessable waste and for contingencies (backup, disasters, etc). The County ultimately negotiates with Waste Management and Wheelabrator Technologies for two mass-burn WTE Resource Recovery Facilities. Late 1980s: Construction commences; both facilities open for commercial operation in 1991/92.

II. Financing. $524,000,000 of industrial revenue bonds were issued by companies to finance the construction of the two WTE plants. The bonds are backed by (I) Corporate guarantees, (II) Service Agreement contract between companies and County, whereby County agrees to deliver 1,100,000 tons per year or pay for any shortfall (put-or-pay), and (III) Pledge of County credit if tipping fees not sufficient to pay obligations.

III. Contracts & Other Documents. Construction Agreements, Service Agreements, Inter-local Agreement (ILA) in 1987, and Agreement with Waste Management, Inc., to use their Central Disposal Sanitary Landfill (in the north) for unprocessable waste and contingencies, Strategic Plan, Plan of Operations, and other ILAs.

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The Resource Recovery System Components
There are two solid waste disposal and electric generating (WTE) plants which are owned and operated by Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Waste Management, Inc.), each having 2,250 tons per day capacity (expandable to 3,000 tons per day); combined capacity of 1.6 million tons per year vs. 2.9 million tons of MSW generated in the county; 68.5 MW turbine generator. Both plants have the required operating and environmental permits and continue to meet all permit conditions. The three primary functions of these two plants are: (1) to provide an environmentally safe and cost-effective solid waste disposal solution; (2) to recover energy and recyclable ferrous metals; and (3) to reduce the quantity of waste subject to landfilling. Ash residue is disposed of in landfills adjoining these two plants (Figure 2).

Some interesting facts about plants: Total waste processed by two WTE plants in about fourteen years—21.5 million tons (a savings of about 21.5 million barrels of oil [1.5 billion dollars], considering energy equivalency of one ton of MSW to one barrel of oil); total electricity produced (net)—11.5 million MWh (75,000 homes are being serviced annually); total metals recovered—220,000 tons (a savings of about 400,000 barrels of oil; recycling of one ton of steel saves the energy equivalent of 1.8 barrels of oil); conservation of valuable land by avoiding landfilling of MSW about 300 acres (WTE processing reduces volume by 10%, ash monofill area is 33 acres); and fresh water usage avoidance (use of tertiary treated water and leachate) about 1.1 million gallons per day or about 11 billion gallons per year.

The Broward Interim Contingency Landfill is a Class I (doubled lined with leachate collection and detection) sanitary landfill—the landfill site totals 588 acres and a total of 263 acres are pre-permitted for landfill cells; the remaining set-aside areas are for wetlands, future WTE plants and ash residue landfill and for other auxiliary services. It is the only publicly-owned landfill in the county.

Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)
The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), privately owned and operated, features a 40,000-square-foot center that processes more than 450 tons of recyclables per day. The MRF's operational costs are covered through a surcharge on the disposal fee at the County's WTE plants, state grants, and other funds. Revenues raised from the sale of the materials are returned to participating cities based on the tonnage they deliver.

Other Facilities
There are three strategically located (north, central, south) Integrated Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection facilities for all residents of the County and Trash Transfer Stations for unincorporated area residents.

In conclusion, P3 works provided it is implemented like Broward County did. Broward County Waste & Recycling Services (WRS) administers successful ISWM which provides a safe and efficient way to handle waste in this large and rapidly growing county.

Ram N. Tewari is a past member of APWA's Solid Waste Management Committee and Homeland Security Task Force. He can be reached at (954) 577-2394 or rtewari@broward.org.