Plant will pull metal from York County's trash ash

Sean Philip Cotter
  • The Solid Waste Authority is building a plant to process the ash from burning trash.
  • The authority burns more than 400,000 tons of trash per year.

York County aims to be pulling the metal out of its burnt garbage and selling it within the next couple of years.

The York County Solid Waste Authority will break ground next week on a $14 million project to build an ash-processing plant that would take many useful bits of material out of the ash created by the county's trash incinerator, according to Ellen O'Connor, spokeswoman for the authority.

The factory, which should come online near the start of 2018, will pick bits of metal, glass and other materials out of the ash so a contractor can sell those items off. The plant will be in the 2700 block of Blackbridge Road in Manchester Township, near the authority's existing facilities, O'Connor said.

York County Solid Waste Authority

This is done through a new "wet-separation" process that's proprietary to York Reduction Systems, which will then sell off the useful materials for itself and the authority, she said.

"They're actually taking the ash and separating out various valuable and viable components," she said. The process uses water and a sifting system, kind of like someone panning for gold, she said.

The authority burns more than 400,000 tons of waste every year, generating enough energy to power 20,000 homes around the clock. The Solid Waste Authority was created in 1971 by the county government but subsists on its own revenue, which in part comes from selling that electricity to Met-Ed.

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Burning all that garbage means the authority ends up with about 166,000 tons of ash annually. Up until this point, the authority has been able to salvage some metal from the trash ash and sell it off, and then sell the rest of the ash to Modern Landfill at 4400 Mount Pisgah Road in Windsor and Lower Windsor townships.

The landfill puts the ash over the garbage it has received throughout the day. The next day, more garbage goes on top of that and is subsequently covered by ash, creating what O'Connor agreed was sort of a tiramisu of garbage and ash.

O'Connor said it's unclear at this point how much the new process will reduce the amount of ash that's going in the landfill, but she said the authority expects the difference to be "significant."

"Our goal is to get away from having much of anything in a landfill," she said.

It's also unclear how much money the process will bring in, she said. But, she added, it is a new revenue source and could bring in a good chunk of money, assuming the price of metal doesn't drop too much.

— Reach Sean Cotter or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.

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