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Montgomery County RRF hits 10 million ton milestone

The Montgomery County facility uses a rail system to bring in waste and avoid truck traffic, thereby avoiding over 9 billion road miles to date.

The Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility (RRF), operated by Covanta Montgomery, Inc., celebrated the milestone of processing 10 million tons of post-recycled municipal solid waste into clean, renewable energy.

The energy-from-waste facility is owned by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority and began commercial operation in August 1995 to sustainably dispose of Montgomery County’s post-recycled waste. By recovering energy from 10 million tons of waste at the RRF instead of disposing waste in landfills, the County has:

  • Produced 5.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity – enough to power Washington D.C. for 6 months;
  • Offset 10 million tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent to the avoided emissions from almost 2 million cars;
  • Recycled 260 thousand tons of ferrous metal – enough to replace 1,136 miles of rail from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans; and,
  • Saved landfill space equal to waste piled 1.4 miles high on a football field.

The RRF is a key component to the County’s integrated solid waste management system, which includes robust recycling programs. The County consistently achieves a recycling rate exceeding 50 percent – far above the national average. Waste that remains after recycling is sent to the RRF for energy recovery where up to 52 MW of clean energy is generated – enough to power approximately 38,000 homes continuously.

Montgomery County utilizes a unique rail system to transfer waste and avoid truck traffic associated with the facility. All waste is first delivered to the Shady Grove Transfer Station in Derwood, compacted into intermodal steel waste containers and then loaded onto railcars. The waste is then transferred 20 miles via rail to the RRF in Dickerson. There the containers are off-loaded and trucked from the on-site rail yard to the facility’s enclosed refuse building. Residue that remains from the process is loaded into sealed containers and shipped by rail. By using rail to deliver waste to the facility, the County has avoided 9 billion road-miles of truck traffic and the associated emissions from approximately 225,000,000 diesel truck trips since its operation began in 1995.

In 2010, 2005 and 1998 the facility received the “Gold Waste to Energy Excellence Award” from the Solid Waste Association of North America. This award considered all aspects of waste to energy operations and represents the highest level of excellence among the nation’s energy-from-waste facilities. Other awards received include, the American Society of Mechanical Engineering Excellence in WTE Operations Award, the American Association of Environmental Engineers Grand Prize for Operations/Management and the American Society of Civil Engineering Outstanding Civil Engineering Project Award.

As operators of the facility, Covanta Montgomery is an active member of the community and supports a number of local organizations such as Western Upper Montgomery County Help, 4H, the Upper Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department and Local Relay for Life.