Great River Energy’s Elk River Resource Processing Plant (ERRPP) received its 10 millionth ton of garbage in mid-April. In nearly 27 years of operation, that waste has been mostly used to generate renewable energy.
ERPPP processes municipal solid waste into fuel for Great River Energy’s Elk River Energy Recovery Station (ERERS), which is a renewable waste-to-energy power plant that operates around the clock. ERRPP also recovers recyclable materials from the waste stream.
“The magnitude of 10 million tons of garbage is staggering and equivalent to about 96 million curbside garbage carts – enough that if set side by side it would circle the earth three times,” said Matt Herman, manager, ERRPP. “This is a tremendous amount of material that is used for beneficial purposes while minimizing waste that goes to a landfill. It’s a ‘win-win’ for our members and the environment.”
Each day, municipal solid waste from Hennepin, Sherburne and Anoka counties is delivered to ERRPP. Steel, aluminum and items that cannot be burned are removed and most often recycled. Each year, the facility removes about 9,000 tons of steel – roughly as much as the Eiffel Tower – and 1,500 tons of aluminum – the equivalent of 100 million beverage containers. Those materials are then sold, which generates revenue for Great River Energy’s member cooperatives.
Due to improvements at the facility in recent years, Great River Energy sends virtually no municipal waste to the landfill. About 12 percent of the waste was landfilled during the first 20 years of the project.
A bulky waste shredder installed in 2012 allows large items to be shredded to make additional refuse-derived fuel and recover more metal.
ERRRP operations contribute $25 million annually to the local economy, 29 megawatts of renewable energy and 90 full-time jobs.