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  • Environmentalists: ‘Green Fuel’ Project in Chicago Heights May Be Full of Smoke

    A new experiment in Green Technology in Chicago Heights is generating excitement among some, and raising concerns with environmentalists.

    According to the Southtown Star, the project entails turning garbage into fuel.  The net energy produced, however, comes from burning the carbon-based pellets made from the trash.

    First, the company’s perspective:

    “This serves an environmental problem,” said Jim Ventura, president of Indiana Recycling and Renewable Fuels LLC. “Chicago Heights and the county will be very proud of this facility. As a matter of fact, I think people from all over will come to see our facility.”

    On its face, the project – to open as early as December – could live up to Ventura’s forecast. When presented the plan late last year, officials at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency were impressed.

    “It was the first time that most of us, if not all of us, had heard of this type of system,” said Charlie Zeal, the IEPA’s bureau of air unit supervisor for permits. “We all thought it was rather innovative.”

    The concerns:

    But environmentalists aren’t smitten.

    The business’s demand for waste goes against what environmentalist strive for – production of fewer materials and a biological process of recycling where the materials we use are made into their original product.

    “It has the perverse effect of creating more pollution and reducing recycling,” said Jeff Tangle, a Chicago-based environmentalist. “In fact, they perpetuate the problem to the extent they take the recycled materials and combust them.”

    The process:

    The operation begins with municipal trash dumped in the yet-to-be-built facility at 1301 S. State St. After an initial sorting, garbage is shredded and run through what Zeal described as a sausage-like grinder.

    Inside that large tube, garbage is ground, the friction of which creates heat to form the end product, dime-sized pellets to be sold off to utility companies to burn and help them meet standards for green technology. Liquid collected during grinding would be used to create electricity and run the plant.

    Ventura, also an alderman in East Chicago, Ind., estimated 1,600 tons of garbage per day would be processed.

    The plant will cost $110 million, and is expected to be operational next year, the company hopes.