But dont the landfills need organic waste

January 28, 2012
| By Pete Daly |
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If companies like Organicycle are successful and people stop throwing their food scraps into their trash, won’t that rob the landfill of material to make methane?

Landfills around the nation produce a significant amount of methane gas, much of which is now captured and burned as fuel to generate electricity. The original intent, however, was to prevent the methane from escaping; methane is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for years, and is more than 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA.

Still, landfill generating plants are relying on that methane, which comes from anaerobic breakdown of organic material in the trash buried underground.

According to the South Kent Landfill website, its 24 gas wells produce enough methane to generate 1.32 megawatts of electricity — enough to power several hundred homes. The Ottawa Farms Landfill power plant next to I-96 in Coopersville can generate up to 6 megawatts from its methane gas. Both of those landfill generating plants were built by Granger Construction in Lansing.

Joel Zylstra, chief operating officer of Granger, was asked if there was any concern about not enough organic material going into landfills to produce methane.

“Interesting question,” he said — after he stopped laughing. He indicated that landfill generating plant operators are not worried.

“It’s good that people are always trying to figure out better ways to recycle and use waste products in a better way. If they can do that productively, we’d encourage that,” he said.

“The good thing about what we have going is, if for whatever reason that kind of recycling can’t happen and it does end up in landfills where we have gas recovery systems, we kind of become the last ditch recycler of that energy,” he added.

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