The biofuel company says it is “trying to save the world”. Environmentalists are skeptical

HALFMOON – A biofuel company seeking to build in a proposed industrial park on Route 146 is getting opposition from environmentalists who say Hughes Energy Group’s autoclave process to take food and paper litter to make fibers and pellets is likely to emit toxins into the air and water and create products that don’t Nobody wants it.

“We’re very excited about it,” Maxbedon said of the Halfmoon facility, which is part of Twin Bridges Waste and Recycling’s Eco Park plan to build on 160 wooded acres. “Send things to landfills, 30 years from now, people will think we’re crazy. We need to reduce, reuse, recycle, recycle while we recycle…We need to get rid of landfills. We’re part of that….We’re We are trying to save the world.”

While it may reduce landfill waste, Tracy Fresh, founder of the Clean Air Action Network in Glens Falls, said Hughes’ plan to recycle food and paper waste through the steaming or cooking process is “meaningless.”

“Number one, the litter sterilizers didn’t work,” Frisch said. “There have been a number of attempts by pioneers of Hughes Energy that have all or nearly closed down. Why would you want to cook food waste and paper together when clean corrugated cardboard is needed and food waste can be composted?”

She also said that food and paper will be sorted from other compressed waste and recyclables, and therefore likely to be filtered with chemical contaminants from the plastic as well as mixed with broken glass and other materials no one wants in their fibres.

“They cook up trash that is already contaminated with PFOs, chemicals PFOAs, and BPA, which are endocrine disruptors,” Frisch said. “This is a serious problem.”

Shannon Gillis agrees. She is a science teacher at Hudson Falls Middle School and is among the contributors to Hands off on Hudson’s website, which is battling Hughes Energy and Saratoga Biochar, a company that wants to build a plant in South Glens Falls to turn sewage sludge into biofuels.

She said companies like Hughes Energy are washing the environment, doing a dirty process, where what is released into the air and through the sewage system that goes into the Hudson River, is environmentally friendly.

“They make use of terminology that sounds really good, but isn’t accurate,” she said. “You know the world is in trouble. You hear something that will contribute to a carbon-neutral world and you think that should be good. But they take the trash and make pellets that eventually get burned and release the carbon.”

City documents show that the company will use a Wilson system that uses an autoclave or fumigation of garbage to produce cellulose fibres. When asked who will use these fibers, Maxbaden said paper mills will use them as recycled paper. Although he has no one buying the fiber at the moment, he said industries are interested and waiting to commit until after they see how the process works.

When asked why cardboard is not recycled as is, he said that a lot of the material is already contaminated with food waste and cannot be recycled directly.

He also said that it is a closed system and that the only waste product will be dirty water, such as that from the kitchen sink, some of which will be recycled. However, city documents show that the facility will also contain an exhaust pile that will rise 15 feet above the 50-foot ceiling line of the 115,000-square-foot facility.

City documents show that Hughes Energy will receive 565 tons of garbage per day and 1764,000 tons per year. The facility will operate 24 hours a day with three shifts for 45 employees. The garbage will be transported to the factory six days a week.

“You’d make a piece of cardboard and a banana the same thing,” said Maxbaden, who is also looking to open facilities in Nassau, Orange and Washington counties. This helps the whole area to solve the garbage problem. We do this because we believe we are creating a better future for our children.”

When asked about Hughes Energy’s move to Halfmoon, supervisor Kevin Tollisen said he’s early in the process.

“The review of this project has to go through several layers, including the engineering review, the planning board, and then the city council,” Tolesen said. The process also requires permission and approvals from the state of New York. While this project is in front of the city, no decision will be made until we have a full understanding of the project and its impacts on our community.”

Gillis said Hughes Energy is part of the first phase of the Twin Bridges proposal, so the general public may not know it’s the same company that is raising concerns in places like Prattsville where residents are also opposed to the amount of truck traffic and noise it would generate.

“They have attached themselves to a very successful garbage company,” Gillis said. “It has grown astronomically… They have a huge amount of trash and Hughes Energy has manifested itself in this other entity. It’s worrying. They can put themselves under the Twin Bridges umbrella and reap all the benefits of that name.”

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