Innovation recovers more metals at Covanta waste-to-energy plant

By Anna Simet | June 18, 2012

Covanta Energy Inc. has commissioned a new metal recovery system at its 80 MW waste-to-energy plant in Fairfax County, Va., a system the company said is a first-of-its-kind in North America.

What makes it innovative is that the system is specially designed to recover very small particles of non-ferrous metal. Spokesman James Regan said that it’s able to recover material smaller than three-eighths of an inch, as the former system was only able to capture materials larger than that size.

The system was provided by Steinert US Inc. In early spring, Covanta announced it had teamed up the company to install non-ferrous metal recovery systems at Covanta plants that don’t currently have them, and enhance current systems at the plants that do, as is the case at Covanta Fairfax. The installation will make a significant difference in the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted from the plant, as the retrieval of new aluminum, copper and other metals will results in an approximate 15,000 ton-per-year reduction, according to Covanta.

Metal recovery from municipal solid waste (MSW) isn’t new to the company. In 2011, Covanta’s 41 energy-from-waste facilities in North America recycled over 400,000 tons of ferrous and over 15,000 tons of non-ferrous metal, the equivalent amount of steel that would be used to build five Golden Gate Bridges and in the production of over one billion aluminum beverage cans, Covanta reported.

Covanta Fairfax, which was the first of Covanta’s facilities to install a metals recovery system, processes more than 3,000 tons of MSW per day and sells its power to Dominion Virginia Power.