A look at SWA

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By: Commissioner Robert Weinroth
County Commissioner, Dist. 4

One of the responsibilities assigned to the member of the Board of County Commissioners is to oversee the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County as its Board of Directors. During its most recent organizational meeting, the commissioners elected me chair of the SWA. And so it was inevitable that I 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 1.5 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.

Residents 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.

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.

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