SoCal Economy of the Future Draws International Interest
It’s not every day that a waste management facility draws interest from around the world. Then again, CR&R Environmental Services’ new eight-acre anaerobic digestion complex in Riverside County is no ordinary facility. Curious developers are flocking to see how this public-private partnership is turning food scraps into fuel and transforming Southern California’s green waste into a green economy of the future.
“We’ve welcomed visitors from China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, South Korea, the Philippines,” says Mike Silva, CR&R Environmental project engineer—and those are just the ones that come to mind. “They’re very interested in the technology, and they like the industrial size of the operation,” he adds.
With phase one of the project up and running, CR&R’s new AD facility in Perris can take in about 250 tons of organic waste per day from nearby communities. Those food scraps, yard trimmings, and other green waste are processed in an Eisenmann USA anaerobic digester, where the material is broken down into carbon-neutral renewable energy, with the help of Greenlane bio-gas upgrading technology. “The renewable gas we’re producing will operate our roughly 900-vehicle fleet,” explains David Fahrion, president of CR&R’s solid waste division. He says CR&R has also begun marketing its soil amendment and liquid fertilizer, valuable byproducts of the AD process, to agricultural markets across the state.
Upon completion of phase two, set for summer 2017, the AD facility will double its capacity to 500 tons of organic waste each day. Once phases three and four are finished, the facility will be among the largest of its kind, processing about 1,000 tons of organic waste daily. That’s organic waste that will never go to a landfill, where food and other green material decomposes and generates methane. This especially potent greenhouse gas has a heat-trapping effect at least 70 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year span.
In addition to slowing climate change, the new AD facility provides California with much-needed organics recycling infrastructure, helping Perris and surrounding communities comply with mandates outlined in SB 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016), AB 1826 (Chesbro, Chapter 727, Statutes of 2014), and AB 1594 (Williams, Chapter 719, Statutes of 2014). The laws aim to remove much of the organic waste sent to California landfills each year. The material type represents more than a third of the state’s annual disposal stream.
“CR&R’s new AD facility is the kind of infrastructure California needs to meet our targeted reductions for short-lived climate pollutants and reach AB 341’s ambitious goal of 75 percent recycling, composting, or source reduction of solid waste,” says Howard Levenson, deputy director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery’s Materials Management and Local Assistance Division. “We look at this facility as a model for how food waste can be handled throughout California.”
CR&R spent more than a decade on research and development before breaking ground on the facility in 2014. “Currently, we’re about $56 million dollars into the $100 million dollar project,” Fahrion notes. “The grants we received have been critical to allow the development to occur as quickly as it has.” That includes a $3 million CalRecycle organics grant funded by California Climate Investments. The statewide program puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
During construction, the AD project in Perris supports 100 full-time jobs in the city. “These are high-paying, skilled jobs,” project manager Mike Silva notes. “When we’re operating at full capacity, we’ll probably create an additional 25 long-term jobs.”
Full capacity may not be too far off. “We’re receiving demands now for phase three because we’re close to meeting our tonnage levels for phases one and two,” Fahrion explains.
“A lot of people have been watching for us to get up and running and to show that this concept does work. And I think we’re proving that now.”
Images courtesy of CR&R Environmental Services