Note: This story has been updated to clarify a previous description about the IREP technology.
- Montgomery, AL has acquired the Infinitus Renewable Energy Park (IREP), a former mixed waste processing facility, more than two years after its closure. A bankruptcy agreement was finalized last month in which the city paid a total of $945,000 for the facility, including IREP's legal fees and unpaid property taxes, as reported by the Montgomery Advertiser.
- The deal had been held up in bankruptcy court since Aug. 2016, and was eventually resolved when the city agreed to pay more than originally anticipated. This also included paying off 2014 bondholders for an undisclosed sum. Following the sale, Montgomery now has full title to the facility and is responsible for the remaining $29 million owed on it.
- Mayor Todd Strange recently said he hopes to resume recycling service soon and is in talks with at least three companies that could take over operations at IREP. Two were described as "international," and another is said to be from the West Coast. At least one company has expressed possible interest in resuming mixed waste processing while others would operate a more traditional material recovery facility.
When IREP opened in 2014, it was seen as a promising sign that mixed waste processing could be making a comeback, but challenging commodity markets and other factors led the facility to close in Oct. 2015. This effectively canceled recycling in Montgomery and affected programs as far as Florida. IREP also left behind more than 18,000 tons of organic material, which caught fire multiple times and posed stormwater hazards, that the city paid to have removed.
Discussions about reopening the facility often come back to the fact that it was built to be profitable from processing 150,000 tons of material per year, but can't count on getting that much from Montgomery alone. Though as previously demonstrated, it is possible to import material from other municipalities or states. The city will be looking for an operator that can make this work without additional subsidies. Interested bidders may need to find a way to help maximize local participation while also integrating volume from around the region.
While mixed waste processing is often described as a way to increase capture rates, some supporters of the concept have previously described the IREP facility as having limited technology. Others, including IREP equipment provider Bulk Handling Systems, say the technology is some of the most advanced of its kind currently in use. Scattered examples of mixed waste processing in action do exist around the U.S., and some still see future potential if even more advanced facilities can be built.
Though skeptics of this idea often still dismiss such facilities as "dirty MRFs" and say they only increase contamination. Any company that takes over IREP will have to prove it can keep that issue in check at a time when contamination is at the top of everyone's minds due to China's new import standards.