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The Villages
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Villagers’ trash could soon be converted from waste to energy

Villagers’ trash could soon be converted from waste to energy in a plan that ditches traditional notions about recycling.

The North Sumter County Utility Dependent District, which oversees trash collection in Community Development Districts 1 through 11, met Wednesday at Savannah Center after a series of in-depth meetings last year about the future of a solid waste plan in The Villages.

NSCUDD, which relies on Jacobs for trash collection services, over the past many months has debated what the future of trash collection would look like for the vast majority of Villagers.

Currently, Villagers in CDDs 1 through 11 enjoy trash pickup twice a week, recycling pickup once a week and lawn debris pickup once a week. Villagers also enjoy bulk pickup, upon request, at no charge.

The Covanta Energy facility in Okahumpka.

The pickups would be combined to twice a week under a plan to send all items to a Covanta waste-to-energy plant in Lake County.

Early in the discussions, many Villagers resisted the idea of ditching the types of recycling programs they had supported up north, dating back to the 1980s. The reality is that the modern market for recyclables has collapsed and at the moment, it is far cheaper to landfill the recyclables.

The change would mean residents would put out a “single stream” of trash, recyclables and yard waste to be picked up in twice-weekly collections. The items would be taken to the the Lake County Covanta facility where they will be burned in a clean fashion and converted to energy.

There are several advantages to the Covanta option:

• Fewer trucks mean there would be fewer emissions into the atmosphere. The items would be transferred to the Lake County facility rather than trucked all the way to a landfill in Georgia, as is being done now.

• Although “burning” would seem to fly in the face of recycling, the energy created would be giving a second life to the discarded items.

• The Covanta option offers a more sustainable long-range plan in a world where landfill space is becoming increasingly scarce.

Andrea Coburn, a 15-year resident of the Village of Belvedere and a retired teacher, spoke out Wednesday in favor of the Covanta option. She described herself as an environmentalist.

“I am convinced that Covanta is the way to go,” she told the NSCUDD members.

Village of Gilchrist resident Dan Warren, who has a background in solid waste management, said Villagers need to rethink recycling.

“We need to broaden our definition of recycling. I think there is a perception out there that if you are not recycling, it’s a bad thing,” he said.

The monthly household assessment would rise next year to $22.24 under the Covanta plan. NSCUDD had recently raised the monthly assessment from $17.90 to $19.38

Some board members said rising costs are inevitable.

“Converting waste to energy is a very worth goal. Everything in the world is going up in cost. Covanta is the cleanest, simplest way to cut down the number of trucks,” said NSCUDD Board member Diane Spencer.

Board members voted to direct District staff to work out a contract with Jacobs and Covanta. The contract will be reviewed and up for a vote at the June 18 NSCUDD meeting.

The lone opponent was NSCUDD Board member Richard Rademacher.

He said it was “unfortunate” that the discussion was taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic when many residents are still fearful of attending public meetings.

He also said many residents have indicated they don’t like the idea of abandoning the traditional recycling program.

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