Lee County transforms hurricane debris into clean energy

FORT MYERS, Fla. Hurricane Irma knocked out the power for days causing food to spoil, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the food went to waste.

Household garbage collected in Lee and Hendry counties are taken to the Lee County Resource Facility where it’s sorted for reusable and recyclable materials, according to the county website.

The lowest value waste is brought to one of Florida’s 11 waste-to-energy conversion plants on Buckingham Road where it’s turned into clean energy.

The facility has been converting waste into electricity through combustion for 20 years.

The trash is first placed in a pit burning at 1,800 degrees, the steam is converted into energy and filtered to control air pollution, solid waste coordinator Molly Schweers said.

“We burn it to make electricity and then we bury the ash which reduces the volume of what we need to bury by 90 percent and we’re able to send electricity out into the grid,” Schweers said.

Lee County Electric Cooperative and Florida Power and Light manage where the electricity is transferred.

“From Lee County’s waste, we can power up to 30,000 homes for an entire year, so basically the population of Bonita Springs,” Schweers said.

The county normally produces around 2,500 tons of solid waste, according to Schweers. The amount of waste nearly doubled to 4,100 tons after Irma.

Reporter:Taylor Bisacky
Writer:Katherine Viloria