After Covanta announced the public could easily access emissions data for its Covanta Lake Waste-to-Energy Facility in Okahumpka, Fla. Waste30 reached out to hear more about why the company decided to release more of its emissions data.

Jonathan Pierron, Associate Editor & Content Producer

November 30, 2022

4 Min Read
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Approximately 50 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents, or greenhouse gasses, are emitted each year, according to a recent study from Our World in Data.

In many ways, greenhouse gasses have been viewed as “necessary evils” as society advances, despite their destructive impact on the Earth’s atmosphere.

In order to slow down their harmful blow to the ecosystem, many environmentally conscious people, politicians, and companies have begun to pay special attention to the types and amounts of greenhouse gasses that are being emitted by particular entities.

This has led to the implementation of several important regulatory legislative acts that require companies to track their emissions data as a means of ensuring they are complying with legal limits.

Some companies, such as Covanta, have gone out of their way to embrace these measures and make their emissions data as readily available to the public as possible.

The Morristown, NJ-based company recently made the decision to publish more emissions data publicly on its website.

After Covanta announced the public could easily access emissions data for its Covanta Lake Waste-to-Energy Facility in Okahumpka, Fla., Waste360 reached out to hear more about why Covanta has decided to release more of its emissions data.

Following the release of emissions data for five different New York-based waste-to-energy facilities earlier this year and the Miami-Dade County Resources Recovery Facility in Doral, Fla. just last month, the newest data release follows a trend of making this information as accessible as possible.

Nicolle Robles, Covanta’s director of corporate communications, broke down why the company has made putting emissions data on its website such an important aspect of what they do.

Despite being a private company, Covanta emissions data has always been available to the public prior to being released openly on the website, Roble clarifies.

“All of our emissions data has always been public information, available on request from the FDEP. FDEP also maintains a public database, available on the internet, which allows everyone to have access to all records submitted to FDEP, such as stack test reports and annual emissions inventories,” she says.

By making this information more attainable, however, Covanta is transparently displaying its environmental impact in a way that conforms their attention to the matter.

“Continuous emissions monitoring is an important tool in demonstrating a waste-to-energy facility’s compliance with the strict emission limits set forth in its operating permit established in accordance with the federal Clean Air Act and Florida’s strict regulatory requirements,” Roble says.

Publicly posting data for these two Florida-based waste-to-energy facilities, Covanta finds it important to highlight that they are achieving the results expected of them by the state legislators.

These numbers are accomplishments they are proud to present, as it means their work to limit emissions is working.

“This is an unfettered virtual seat into the control room to view the very same data that operators use to monitor operational performance at the waste-to-energy facility, which serves the region with reliable and sustainable waste management,” Roble states.

Processing 161,000 tons of waste each year, the Covanta Lake waste-to-energy facility converts enough waste to provide continuous electricity to power 7,000 homes for a full year.

“With 8 Covanta facilities across the state, Florida relies on waste-to-energy more than any other state in the nation for the safe and environmentally responsible disposal of municipal solid waste.”

Facilities like these are a vital part of the waste industry by recycling otherwise useless waste into electricity to benefit the same communities disposing of it.

The same facility, while creating this much useful energy, has managed to institute the necessary emissions-reducing tactics to cut down its greenhouse gas emissions by 139,000 tons. This is equivalent to taking 27,000 passenger vehicles off the road.

“The facility operates up to 99% below federal emissions guidelines, including those checked annually during rigorous stack testing. That strong performance is only part of the story – every day, we are delivering renewable electricity to the grid, keeping waste out of landfills where it generates the potent GHG methane, and recycling metals” Robles says.

Outside of Florida, emissions data is still being recorded and reductions are also being made.

In state, the numbers are recorded through a Continuous Emission Monitoring System, or CEMS data system, which is a method also utilized at Covanta facilities in states such as New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Recording data every minute, CEMS systems create extremely current and up-to-date data that accurately portrays the emissions from each of the facilities, which can then be compared to the US EPA and state emission limits. Doing this, you will see why Covanta is so proud to display its data; it exceeds all expectations.

Publicly posting this data creates trust between the Covanta facilities and states, residents, and environmental organizations in the areas they are located.

While this method has proved many benefits for the company, it is no surprise why numerous others are not leaning toward the same idea.

By posting their emissions data as readily available as Covanta has been doing, they are opening themselves up to much more accountability by the communities they are locating themselves within.

About the Author(s)

Jonathan Pierron

Associate Editor & Content Producer

John Pierron is the associate editor of Waste360. He graduated from Ohio University.

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