Linn County eyes plasma melter technology for waste disposal - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Linn County eyes plasma melter technology for waste disposal

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - The machine, called a plasma-enhanced melter, looks like complicated maze of pipes and gauges, but what it does is simple. It breaks down almost any kind of solid waste and turns it into a clean form of energy that has several applications.

Wednesday was the first public demonstration of the machine in the state of Iowa. It was brought to Linn county, because of all the waste.

"We want to divert as much as we can," said Karmin McShane, Executive Director of the Cedar Rapids & Linn County Solid Waste Agency.

Only flood debris is being dumped at their Cedar Rapids landfill, but at a rate of about 600 tons a day.

The melter can take 1 ton of that debris, reduce part of it to a small pile of recyclable material, and turn the rest into gas. It's what Kurt Musgrave of Tepa Technologies calls synthesis gas, or syn-gas. "The syn-gas can be used directly to plug into energy systems, or it can be used to make alcohol-based fuels."

The solid by-product can be used for construction materials like insulation and road aggregate. Musgrave says the melter currently handles the disposal of hazardous materials and medical waste. However, it will be a while before it can be used as a viable solution to overflowing landfills.

"It would take a larger unit to take on like a whole city's landfill operation," said Musgrave, who was not prepared to discuss what the machine would cost.

McShane says Marion, Cedar Rapids and Linn County are only studying the technology at this point.

"Speaking for my board and the Solid Waste Agency, if something is viable economically and technically, we would be interested in pursuing it."

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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