As far as I am concerned, the two biggest problems facing humanity are kicking our addiction to oil, and figuring out a way to get rid of all our garbage without stuffing it into big, endless holes in the ground.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could kill two birds with one stone? One day, we might be able to, but for now at least one company is working on a way to fix their fuel woes within the confines of their own business.
Waste Management, one of the biggest garbage companies in the country, says it will be able to produce 13,000 gallons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) daily from just one landfill in Northern California.
In my mind the rather worn down, but still relevant and succinct phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle” has many meanings. Capturing the naturally-occurring methane, converting it to LNG, and using it in Waste Management’s fleet of alt-fuel trucks is a great idea. Cranking out 13,000 gallons daily would produce an annual yield of about 4 million gallons, enough to run 300 LNG trucks all year (WM has about 425 such trucks operating in California right now).
They also claim this will result in 30,000 fewer tons of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere. Similar plants are used to power their facilities and return power to energy grid as well, but this is the largest landfill fuel plant in existence.
Waste Management partnered with a German company named Linde to build the fuel plant at the Altamont Landfill, which opened back in 1988. Since opening in September, the LNG plant has produced about 200,000 gallons of LNG. Methane occurs as a natural part of the decomposing process, and is actually a major contributor to global warming. So, by all means, install these kinds of plants in landfills nationwide.
This would be a great use of an old landfill too, as Altamont is nearing its 15 million ton capacity. San Francisco, hippie capital of the world, cranks out 500,000 tons of garbage every year, most of which winds up at Altamont. At the current rate, Altamont could be filled as soon as 2014. Rather than leave it as bulging stinky cist on the fact of the planet, Waste Management could at least siphon some fuel for themselves.
Also I think it is fair to point out that San Francisco has reduced their waste output by 10% from 2007 to 2008 (520,000 tons to 467,000 tons) through composting and recycling initiatives. Alas, the rest of California still produced another 92.5 million tons of waste in 2008, and all that garbage has to go somewhere. Until we figure out a way to get rid of garbage that doesn’t involve digging a hole in the ground and dumping it there, we might as well get something out of it, right?