Landfills as a source of energy – making a positive out of a negative

Landfills as a source of energy – making a positive out of a negative

Landfills are ugly and they are an environmental problem. Bad can be turned to good however, with proper use of the gases that landfills emit.

Landfills create methane gas, which contributes to global warming. They also release toxic waste that causes cancer and a range of health problems and these toxic contaminants can cause cancer and other health problems in local communities. In fact, The Energy Justice Network notes that an American study found women living near landfills had a four-fold increased risk of certain cancers, so the health threats are very real.


The problem with landfills is the dangerous gases they emit, but there are some ways to deal with them that can help cut out waste and re-use the energy of the gas:


Boilers – Boilers are among the cheapest options. They produce heat, not electricity, but as long as the integrity of the pipeline is good, the warmth can be transported to other areas.

Gas Turbines – Gas turbines do emit some carbon monoxide, but they can be used to create energy.

Fuel Cells – Fuel cells are the most expensive technology, as they are still largely experimental. This has the potential to be one of the cleanest energy conversion technologies available, as long as contaminants are filtered out properly.

Cleaning up the Gas to be sent out in the pipeline – This process requires a high degree of cleaning and filtering of the methane gas. The methane could even be added to the natural gas supply to boost energy volumes. One caveat however is that it must be very well cleaned, or it will just contaminate the natural gas supply.

It’s all complicated stuff and technology is still at a very early stage, but there is hope. Those gases seeping from landfills everyday have some potential. Now what we need to do is invest in the right things and try to make a positive out of a negative.

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