At landfills, garbage is turning into energy – and money

By: Nick McGurk Email
By: Nick McGurk Email

When garbage decomposes, it creates methane gas – some twenty times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide. But recently, landfills have been working on ways to harness methane gas into energy and revenue.

There are projects happening at landfills right here in Michiana, including the Southeast Berrien County Landfill.

"We average six hundred to a thousand tons of trash a day here," said Andrea Alexander, who works there.

Since the summer, those tons of trash haven’t just decomposed as they used to, when the methane gas would get burned into the atmosphere. Instead, there are 60 gas wells throughout the landfill that collect the methane from the rotting garbage – and the gas is sent to a facility, where it’s burned and turned into electricity.

The landfill gets a percentage of the revenues from the electricity. And so far, they’ve been netting roughly $10,000 a month. That figure could triple, according to Dave Jones, who manages the landfill.

Fact is, creative ways to use methane, and save money, are gaining steam all over.

“Waste to energy is the future,” said Kim Davis, with the Elkhart County Landfill.

Heat, and not electricity, is what methane helps create at that landfill.

"That gas is collected, and sent over to the county jail over there and create steam for all their heating needs,” said Kim Davis, with the landfill. “This is an example of waste to energy that is being seriously looked at at all landfills all over the world."

So, next time you throw out a bag of trash – at least know this: your garbage will make the hills at your local landfill grow. But at least all that garbage isn’t exactly going to waste.

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