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The Facts Behind Wind Turbine Blade Disposal

Many people don’t realize that turbine blade generators are disposable in municipal solid waste landfills. That’s according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which allows blades generators in solid waste landfill under Subtitle D regulations. End-of-life turbines are constructed of highly recyclable materials like metal, wood and other reusable materials. When blades are processed prior to disposal, anything that cannot be recycled may be disposed of as inert waste.

Landfills are not all created equal, and their designations determine what they can or cannot accept. For example, a Subtitle C landfill, also known as a hazardous waste landfill, is an engineered landfill permitted to accept regulated hazardous waste for final disposal. These are regulated by the EPA since they were established in 1970 by  the Nixon Administration. You won’t find most turbine blades there, however, since they are not considered hazardous waste. 

Your local dump is what you’re likely most familiar with, which is technically known as a Subtitle D landfill. This is the most common place to dispose of regular waste generated within a community. These landfills are also regulated by the EPA for the disposal of municipal solid waste. The EPA allows turbine blade generators in Idaho to dispose of end-of-life blades in a municipal solid waste landfill, regulated under Subtitle D regulations. These landfills are also highly engineered to protect groundwater, air and the earth around it.

Municipal facilities can accommodate blades, despite their large size, if they are properly processed prior to disposal.  When a blade is disposed of as one whole piece, all that volumetric airspace is wasted. However, when blades are effectively processed prior to disposal, the landfill’s airspace may be utilized more efficiently. When this occurs, the processed blade material can be disposed of as inert waste in most cases.

Local governments generally fund landfill operations through a user fee, paid by property taxes, and/or a tipping fee per ton of waste disposed. The more waste dumped, the more revenue generated.

End-of-life blades are usually defined as municipal solid waste, inert waste, or construction and demolition waste. Landfill operations generally can’t foresee these projects until they are ready to dispose of the blade waste. This means that the extra revenue can add up, beyond what’s been forecasted, potentially reducing taxes or user fees for the community. Properly processed blades can easily be placed with no additional resources to the landfill’s working face, making the blade disposal issue an economic win for local communities. 

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