DECEMBER 2009

 

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Waste Reduction Technologies
Riley Hagan • 225-927-2019

—Riley Hagan III In 2008, Riley Hagan purchased Crochet Equipment Company, a 34-year-old manufacturer of industrial incinerators, and named the new company Waste Reduction Technologies, reflecting the fact that incineration technology reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

An added bonus is that the incinerators can be fitted with waste-to-energy units to create energy. With the decrease in waste disposal fees, plus the value of the generated energy, the payback on these units can be as little as two years.

While Waste Reduction Technologies sells stand alone incinerators, Hagan said the waste-to-energy add-ons “lend themselves to be fitted with boilers and turbines” and are a good fit “when there’s a proximate need for hot water and steam.” One industry where this application is particularly useful is in food processing plants that use the resulting steam in their cooking, canning, sanitizing and heating.

Currently, Waste Reduction Technologies is building a new waste-to-energy system that will be shipped to Iceland. The unit will generate both steam and electricity. Hagan explained that the sparse population in Iceland means people live in small, isolated villages with few public utilities. It makes sense to burn the waste material and generate energy locally, so each village can be more self-sufficient.

Closer to home, Hagan said incineration technology is becoming more important as landfills reach capacity. “We’ve got a pretty elegant solution to a tough problem.” Landfills that were designed in the 1950’s and earlier used projections that were “way too low” in terms of population density.

Landfills that were on the edge of populated areas when they were built are now inside the cities, rapidly filling, and finding space for new landfills is difficult. Newer landfill sites are farther from the cities, adding to the cost of transportation by “burning up huge amounts of fossil fuels,” and relying on old technology. “You’re still filling up a hole in the ground,” Hagan said.

Incineration is no longer the old “put it in a fire and burn it” method that produced unpleasant smoke and ash. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Hagan said of current incineration plants. The landfills are seeing a reduced volume of waste, and the high heat and new technology burns the material cleanly, “without the air getting polluted.”

Hagan explained that the material is burned in two stages. The first time, the waste itself is burned, and then an afterburner cleans up the smoke and particulates. According to Hagan, visible stack testing shows “zero percent opacity” and exhaust is particulate-free. All you can see coming out of the incinerator’s stacks is the ripple effect from the heat.

When Hagan bought the company almost two years ago the employees stayed with the company, including the previous owner who stayed on to help with the transition to new management, and will retire at the end of this year. Hagan hired some new people, bringing the number of employees up to about 15, and business remains solid. “We think we’ve got a pretty full plate going into next year,” Hagan said.

Helping the company’s future, according to Hagan, is that there are tax incentives for green projects, so those projects are getting more attention from industry. But even before those incentives, Hagan said that incineration made economic sense, just because of the high cost of waste disposal and the lack of landfill space.

Besides being useful in traditional manufacturing, Hagan explained that incineration is also ideal for animal crematoriums, for disposing of pathogens and medical waste, and for other applications where biological contamination might be an issue. Law enforcement applications include disposal of narcotics, and disposing of plant materials confiscated by customs agents at airports. While the business has its challenges, and the economy has taken its toll on the ability of customers to get financing, Hagan looks forward to a bright future, with growth in both domestic and international business and continued “cutting edge R&D” for new products. Trained as an engineer, Hagan said that he’s most happy to be part of “a logical, efficient solution to a difficult problem.”