Editors note: This story was submitted by the Prince William County Government.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors recently approved an agreement with LEEP Holdings, LLC, of Vienna to begin a project to convert solid waste to reusable products at the Prince William County Landfill. LEEP was among three companies that submitted proposals to the County for this project. The first phase of the project is a final planning and engineering period for LEEP, to prove to the County that the project will work.

Prince William County Solid Waste Division Chief Tom Smith said that during the demonstration, LEEP plans to show that it can successfully manage its waste conversion operation. “They are proposing to process and sort waste into different products, to pull the metals out for recycling, to turn the organics into a fuel pellet and to take plastic to make a lightweight aggregate for use in making lightweight concrete.”

Smith said the final planning and engineering period will help determine if LEEP should be awarded a longer contract. “This is a fairly new technology that we decided we want to take one step at a time. This phase one agreement, basically, is a systematic method to look at this technology further and make sure we have all the bells and whistles and the right financing done before we move forward with construction and operation.”

The final planning and engineering phase of the project, set for a total of 240 days, will include benchmarks LEEP must meet. If LEEP meets all of the benchmarks, it will be awarded a 13-year contract with the option of a 10-year extension.

Financing for the project would come in part from the County, which would contribute up to 40 percent of a maximum of $5 million from the solid waste fund to pay for equipment and buildings. The County would then lease back to LEEP, who would then repay the County from its revenues. LEEP would finance an estimated $12.3 million to cover additional capital costs. No general fund tax dollars are being used for the project.

According to a staff report, the landfill takes in roughly 1,000 tons of garbage daily. Under the contract, LEEP would be required to process 250 tons of garbage a day in the first year, 300 tons of garbage a day by the third year and 400 tons a day by the fourth year extending through the end of the contract.

If the project is successful, the County would be set to receive 3 percent, or approximately $260,000 per year, of LEEP’s revenue beginning in the fifth year of the contract. If LEEP fails to meet any of the contract stipulations, it would be required to remove all of its equipment. The county would own the buildings, which could be used to house other solid waste processing and recycling operations.

The project’s success could extend the life of the landfill by four years in the first 13 years and another three years during the 10-year extension. “We’re trying to divert waste from the landfill. We’re trying to extend the landfill life. Once it’s filled. It’s filled,” Smith said of the landfill, which is currently expected to last until 2060. “We want to do the right thing. Is burying garbage, for the long term, the best thing to do for our children and our grandchildren? Should we find other ways to recycle it and reuse it to produce energy? This is really something we want to work on.”