This finding has paved the way for a Tennessee company called Carbon Rivers to begin the lengthy process of recycling about one thousand blades into material to make, among other items, composite decking boards, ceiling tiles, and injection-molded automobile cupholders.

“You have glass fiber and carbon fiber composite and resin and other constituent parts like wood and foam. All that can be recovered.”

When I asked him what he saw when he looked at photographs of the blades in Sweetwater, he said, “I see a new boat, a new car, a new blade. There is no longer any need whatsoever to landfill composites.”

A different company has lied about removing blades though, and multiple states recognize this:

“Recycling in Progress,” reads a sign on a box truck parked behind a chain-link fence, but the evidence suggests that’s an empty promise.

Global Fiberglass Solutions, a Washington State company that promised the State of Texas, the county, the city, investors, wind-energy companies, and its Sweetwater neighbors that its business plan was to temporarily store the blades there before grinding them up and recycling them into pallets or railroad ties.

That never happened, but after I first visited the site, last August, the company’s CEO, Don Lilly, promised: “If you come back nine months from now, you will not see the material.”

This is the fraud part:

General Electric filed a lawsuit claiming it had paid GFS $16.9 million to recycle about five thousand blades, which the company instead stockpiled in Sweetwater and Iowa. GFS took the money and the blades and then “all but shut down,” according to the complaint. GFS has asked for an extension because it can’t hire a lawyer.

That state’s (Iowa) environmental agency investigated, determined that GFS was running an unpermitted dump, and forwarded the matter to the state’s attorney general. A subsequent investigation determined that GFS never owned the blades.

The State of Texas could take charge, but its wheels of justice are turning much slower than Iowa’s. In late 2022, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined GFS $10,255 and gave it a year to obtain a permit to store industrial solid waste. That year lapsed in November, and the company never finished paying the fine.


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