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182 21 A Good Proposal—Not Implemented in San Francisco I am totally familiar with San Francisco’s waste composition. I learned about it through in-depth personal contact with it during my fourteen years on the truck, by studying it in our yards, and by sending crews to hand-separate solid waste into nine categories so we could accurately determine the components through measuring and recording weights and percentages. I did this work not by computer analysis but by physically breaking down compo­ nents from residential apartment houses, com­ mercial construction debris, and the like. In 1972, the City of Mountain View increased the royalty fee from thirty-two cents to two dollars a ton, attracting the atten­ tion of then San Francisco supervisor Dianne Feinstein, with whom I had worked personally in the development of the transfer station and other waste processes in San Francisco. Feinstein came to me claiming that it was outrageous that we had to pay all this money to the City of Mountain View, even though that city would provide us with a disposal program for at least ten years. While objecting to Mountain View’s move, Feinstein urged us to find ways to generate energy from the waste stream. The timing was perfect because the nation was in the throes of an energy crisis, so there was no better time to develop an alter­ nate method of disposal, reduce dependency on landfill, recycle a portion of the waste stream, and generate electrical power. We could do this by developing a new predictable fuel source called refuse derived fuel (RDF). Based on my personal experience and on the knowledge gained on trips to Western Europe, I knew that, with some front-end preparation, San Francisco’s waste stream had the potential to generate electric power. Since this change would move us into a higher level of waste processing—far beyond the scope of our experience or knowledge—it was clear we needed to find someone who had the credentials necessary to create such a program. After some research, we found Richard Cottrell, a graduate of MIT and former president of Aerojet General, Rocketdyne, in 183 A Good Proposal—Not Implemented in San Francisco Sacramento. Cottrell had experience converting biomass waste to energy projects and knew how to develop an RDF system. He clearly had the credentials necessary to develop this system for San Francisco, and he would complement our team in making the proposal. We worked in conjunction with Pacific Gas & Electric Company , which agreed to purchase the power generated at six cents per kilowatt-hour for any waste generated from this potential project at forty-two megawatts, which would provide about 8 percent of San Francisco’s electrical needs. Coupled with that commitment and the city’s willingness to give us a twenty-year disposal contract based upon our already demonstrated experience, we were able to get more than $100 million to finance the project. We already had control of the waste stream and a disposal rate in existence that was high enough to offset the funding and opera­ tional expenses to create this project. So we made a proposal to the City of San Francisco, formally referred to as The San Francisco Resource Conversion Center. We proposed using the existing solid-waste transfer station as a starting point to receive waste. But instead of transferring the waste to the long-haul transportation trailers, we would use a front-end system of separation and recovery to process the waste into two categories: “heavy” (non-combustible) and “light” (combustible). The heavy/non-combustible sections would be run through ferrous and nonferrous magnetic fields to extract metals, glass, dirt, concrete, and any materials that could not be recycled. This heavy material would be taken to a landfill for disposal. The light/ combustible waste, representing about 70 percent of the total waste stream, would be sent to “rough grind” and through an “air cyclone,” transforming the waste into a homogeneous mix, uniform in size and moisture balance. By this point, the mixed light component would become a predictable source of energy, what the industry refers to as refuse derived fuel, similar to natural gas or coal. By developing a uniform, consistent, and predictable fuel source, it would be comparatively easy for us to apply the appro­ priate technology to maintain air quality control and minimize air pollution. With the proposed system, the City of San Francisco could produce 8 percent of its electrical needs from its...


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