When it comes to energy production, landfills are a land of opportunity. As of this summer there were 636 municipal projects nationwide focused on converting landfill gas into fuel and electricity. Landfills are an ideal source of energy as they are near large cities, understandably unwanted by the communities closest to them, a source of energy security and grid resilience, and masses we are quickly running out of space for.
Cities like New York produce tons of trash each day which gets shipped as far as western Pennsylvania. Creating energy from landfill gases is a critical management strategy for our ever-expanding piles of waste. It is also a source of energy that has ongoing supply—we will continue to create trash. The World Bank estimates the globe is creating roughly 1.43 billion tons of municipal solid waste every year, which is alone reason enough to do something productive with it.
Waste to energy conversion projects range from creating electricity in Atlanta's suburbs to proposed ideas to fuel city buses with converted waste in lieu of traditional gasoline. Landfill gas could create an efficient feedback loop in which garbage trucks are fueled by the waste they transport. In South Carolina, SCRA, a company working on the technology, has partnered with BMW to create hydrogen fuel from converted landfill gas, which would be even cleaner than current applications that rely on carbon dioxide and methane.
There is opposition to some of the projects where the technology used by conversion plants is outdated and potentially dangerous. If projects improve plant operations and move passed some of these concerns, however, waste will become one of our most coveted "renewable" resources. Landfills will slowly disappear, fossil fuels will become less of a valued commodity, and, perhaps most importantly, we will not end up like Wall-E.
Read more about landfill gas projects from Next City.