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Montgomery Wins Award for Innovation

The Infinitus Renewable Energy Park has only been operating in Montgomery for a little more than a year, but the partnership with the city is already getting recognized.

On Thursday, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Vice President Angela Wier announced the city is being awarded the Outstanding Public-Private Partnership for Innovation award for its work with IREP.

“Out of a really competitive batch of applications we received, Montgomery is winning the Public-Private Innovation award for the state of Alabama, and it’s really exciting, because we look for creativity and vision for solving a local or global problem,” Wier said. “I’m a big proponent of recycling.”

IREP began operations in Montgomery in May 2014 after a visit to a local landfill prompted Mayor Todd Strange to ask why bags used for recycling could been seen amongst the waste.

“We had (separate) recycling in Montgomery, Alabama,” Strange said. “You had to put it in the orange bag and put it out on certain days. Our trucks came by, picked it up and took it to recycling centers around the city that we didn’t control.”

When Strange saw recycling was ending up in the landfill, he found out it was because the recyclables weren’t actually getting recycled.

“The answer was only 25 percent of what was supposed to be recycled actually got recycled, because we didn’t have the throughput capacity,” Strange said.

After looking at technologies available, the city partnered with IREP in what has already become an award-winning partnership.

Now instead of separating recyclables from the trash at home, everything is sorted by an automated system at the IREP facility.

“People really don’t understand Montgomery has recycling, because it all goes in that green can and magic happens after that,” Strange said.

IREP Owner, Representative and Operations Manager Daniel Carlisle said he is grateful to the city for the cooperation.

“We know we were up against a lot of competitors,” Carlisle said. “There’s a lot of innovation in the state of Alabama.”

Innovation at IREP isn’t stopping.

The company currently diverts 50 to 60 percent of waste from the landfill. Carlisle’s goal is to increase diversion to 75 percent.

In addition, Carlisle said IREP is ready for the “next phase,” but what that phase ultimately is remains to be seen.

Carlisle wants Montgomery to convert all garbage trucks to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) that is produced from composting recyclables. While this will save money for the city in the long run, the cost of conversion now has the city taking what Strange called a “wait-and-see” approach.

In the meantime, IREP is also exploring using waste to produce a solid fuel that can be used by private companies that produces half the carbon footprint of coal emissions. The third path for the company is production of commodities from recycled material.

“Not only are we diverting that (waste), these are going back into market,” Carlisle said of recycled commodities. “For the first time in Montgomery, there’s a lot of products that are shipped right here going back into manufacturing.”

August 13, 2015

Andrew J. Yawn, Montgomery Advertiser

Small Business

2015 Alabama Innovation Awards Winners Announced

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