Gem-Ash, an ash incinerator miner, searches for more gold at Rosemount landfill
Gem-Ash, who has developed an innovative way to make money from waste, is expanding its six-year-old operation into a landfill in Rosemount.
The company recovers small pieces of precious metals that escape recycling and survive incineration at the Hennepin County Waste-to-Energy Plant in downtown Minneapolis.
Gem-Ash “extracts” the ashes that have been buried for years at the Rosemount landfill. He mined over 70 million pounds of steel, aluminum, silver, bronze, even a little gold, and a lot of other things of varying value. The work also ends with the conservation of the landfill space.
“We will process up to 100,000 tonnes this year and reduce the landfill mass by 7.6%,” said Jerry Goodwald, a former steel industry engineer who started Gem-Ash in 2015. “It was a great success. happy new year. The income and profits are There are financial and environmental benefits. We also pay rent [to the landfill operator] and our costs have gone up. “
Gem-Ash, with seven workers, generated millions of dollars in value, including for the landfill owner and Hennepin County, which would otherwise be buried. Revenues of about $ 3 million per year vary depending on commodity prices.
Gem-Ash recently completed a six-figure expansion for a third processing line that allows the company to recover more metals that would otherwise go back to landfill.
CJ Goodwald, Jerry’s son and also a mechanical engineer, designed the additional line.
“We needed to recover more metal on an ongoing basis,” Jerry Goodwald said. “The third row allows us to spread the material further.”
He said the extra line helps find and mine more precious metals.
“The highest concentration of these metals is found in the smallest particles of the ash,” Goodwald said. “It’s just very difficult to extract.”
This means more recovery of small pieces, less than 6 millimeters, aluminum, copper, brass, gold, silver, platinum and palladium.
Precious metals mined by Gem-Ash are sent by sea to processors in the Netherlands. These tend to be melted by incineration with wood, plastic or cement. And European extractors achieve higher recovery of these metals through greater experience in incineration and recovery.
“They pay me more money,” Goodwald said. “Most of the steel we recover is sold domestically. “
Gem-Ash is a small pioneer in a tough and dirty business that has a bad reputation among some of the more than 100 waste-to-energy incinerators in the United States.
A European company failed to do so at several American sites, notably in Minnesota. This is partly explained by the fact that European ashes are treated differently: “lower ash” is separated from “fly ash” during incineration.
In American factories, the ashes are combined to go to landfill. And Gem-Ash processes tend to be stickier because much of it has been buried in Rosemount for years, and Minnesota weather also means it can be wet.
Goodwald’s completed process is being monitored by scientists from Florida State University and a few research institutes in Europe. He hopes the technology can be extended elsewhere in the United States.
The Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) is considered better than landfill by waste experts. It burns 365,000 tonnes of garbage a year to create steam for the city center and enough electricity to power hundreds of homes. This reduces what goes to landfill.
The county says about 45% of the waste generated each year in Hennepin County is recycled or composted. In addition, over 11,000 tonnes of scrap metal is recovered from the waste stream delivered to HERC before the garbage is burned.
Reusing and recycling products takes less energy than burning them. And there are fewer emissions when aluminum, glass and plastic are used to make new products.
Gem-Ash is the last chance for this stuff.
Jerry Goodwald, 63, worked for years as an engineer and manager for former North Star Steel and Gerdau Steel.
Ten years ago, Goodwald was responsible for a steel shredding operation in Texas that destroyed more than 14 million cars each year. In addition to steel and plastic, each vehicle made an average of $ 1.25 wedged in seats that were removed before the vehicles were shredded. Gem-Ash collects $ 2,000 per month in currency at Rosemount.
Professor Tim Townsend, an environmental engineer at the University of Florida who oversees Goodwald and other pioneers in the garbage collection business, said, “Jerry has just started from scratch and has developed a system that works pretty well. “