Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fuel from Trash

Paper bricks, an example of refuse derived fuel.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Most of us have been hearing this, the holy trinity of the environmental movement, since we were in elementary school. Although there is a time and a place for each, there is a reason for the order that these words are always placed in. Reducing the amount of waste we create can make the most progress towards reducing our impact on the world around us. Recycling, on the other hand, can end up with the same disadvantages of tossing things into a landfill because of the amount of time and energy it takes to transport, sort, and process recyclables.
                Here on Spruce, we’re taking a big step towards reducing our environmental impact by reusing much of our waste instead of recycling it. Given our remote location, the nearest recycling facilities are forty miles away in Elkins. Without another reason to make the trip, there is a lot of gasoline consumed in getting our recycling to town.
                With a few simple tools and a little bit of time, we are able to convert our paper trash – the bulk of our recyclables - into heat. Refuse Derived Fuel is the fancy terminology for this process. Paper is shredded, soaked, and compressed into bricks using a device such as this one. Once dried, the bricks burn as well as some woods. Since most of the buildings here are wood heated, this cuts down on the amount of fire wood that we need to burn. 
                Cardboard can be processed into fuel with even less effort – pieces are cut down to wood stove-length sections, rolled into logs, and tied with natural fiber string. The cardboard logs heat up quickly and burn hot, but last longer than if you threw the pieces in flat.
                A group of volunteers from "Outside In" in Elkins was up last month to help make paper bricks. The project was so successful that they are working to implement a similar program on their own campus. A big “thank you” is due to the folks from "Outside In" for all of their hard work.
Plastics and metals can all be recycled locally and don’t build up nearly as quickly. As far as glass, we are making the Spruce Knob Mountain Center glass-free beginning in 2014. If you do bring glass containers on your visit to the Mountain, we ask that you bring the empties home with you to recycle.

                With a few simple steps, we are reducing our driving, reducing the amount of firewood we need, and eliminating the need for someone else to sort all of our recyclables later on down the line. That’s true sustainability.


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