A St. Louis company has bold plans to capture the community’s landfill gas and use it to heat homes. “For the last decade, gas produced from decaying food, paper and grass clippings at Fred Weber Inc.’s Maryland Heights landfill has helped Pattonville High School save thousands of dollars a year on its energy bill.” But now, Weber wants to use the gas to heat the homes of the area’s 27,000 residents.
In his article, Jeffrey Tomich explains that landfill gas, “is composed mostly of methane and carbon dioxide and is created by the decomposition of organic material. The quality of gas depends on many variables and typically contains about half of the energy of natural gas used to cook with or run a furnace.” Using less efficient sources of energy generally isn’t encouraged unless the potential energy is already being created. In this case, and in the case of solar power, the issue isn’t creating fuel to power society but instead capturing the fuel already being created by our waste, or nature in the case of solar power.
Tomich also points out that, “The use of landfill gas as an energy source began in the late 1970s. The idea is gaining momentum amid higher prices for fossil fuels and growing concerns about climate change, said Rachel Goldstein, a manager of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program, part of the agency’s climate change division.”
Why not concentrate resources on other sources of energy, say renewable or more efficient ones? Because, according to the EPA, “the use of landfill gas as a renewable form of energy because it helps reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas and contributor to smog, and spares emissions of other pollutants by reducing consumption of fossil fuels. The methane not used to generate energy is either vented into the atmosphere or burned at landfills to minimize emissions.”
This isn’t the only landfill project in operation in the country. Last year, 423 landfill gas projects, “generated 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 75 billion cubic feet of gas in 2006. Those projects prevented the release of 19.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — or the equivalent of tailpipe emissions from 14 million vehicles, according to EPA figures.”
That is simply amazing. The impact of our lifestyles is magnified even through our garbage. That’s why it’s more important than ever to be conscious of what you use, how you use it and what you throw away.