Covanta Turns Drugs into Clean Energy

Covanta Energy

by | Sep 13, 2013

Covanta EnergyCovanta Tulsa Renewable Energy has partnered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of Arkansas and Texas to safely destroy more than 44,000 pounds of unwanted medications and turn them into clean energy.

The collected drugs are combusted at high temperatures and converted into renewable energy at no charge to customers through Covanta’s Rx4Safety program.

When combined with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics’ Safe Trip for Scripts program, the total prescription medications collected and converted to energy by Covanta Tulsa surpasses 67,000 pounds in the last 12 months, the company says.

Covanta launched its Rx4Safety program as a response to prescription drug abuse and evidence of pollution in waterways and drinking water. Covanta has partnered with a variety of community groups and law enforcement agencies since the program’s inception in 2010.

Medications contaminate surface and groundwater supplies when flushed down the toilet, washed down the sink or thrown into the local landfill. Wastewater treatment plants cannot filter out pharmaceuticals, passing them along to communities in their surface and drinking water. Medications that wind up in landfills can also end up in water sources since some leachate from landfills goes to those same wastewater treatment plants.

To date the Rx4Safety program has destroyed about 750,000 pounds of medications at Covanta’s energy-from-waste facilities, the company says.

Chiquita’s corporate social responsibility report 2009-2012, published earlier this month, calls out its Costa Rica fruit processing plant, Mundimar, which installed a biodigester as part of the company’s waste to energy program in 2011.

In Hawaii, where energy prices have doubled or even tripled in some places since 2002, the Department of Agriculture has been working with Big Island Dairy Group — which took over a bankrupt dairy farm — to build a biodigester that they expect will turn large amounts of waste into energy. The goal of the two entities is to expand biodigester technology throughout the state.

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