Waste Disposal: Landfill Alternative

Anonymous's picture

"Atomising trash eliminates the need to dump it, and generates useful power too"


Where does trash go?  As far as we know, it goes from the garbage bin outside our house, to the garbage truck and then it goes.......where, the bay?  Space?  Underneath earth's crust?  Ah, no.  From the trucks it goes to various collection facilities and is then dumped in a landfill where it stubbornly sits for however many eons until it decomposes into toxic gas.  Not only is the sheer volume of trash rapidly increasing, but the space required to meet this increase is decreasing.  Growing populations = more trash and less space to dump it in.

San Franciscans know all too well the implications of building on top of a landfill (Hint: 1906 and 1989).  So what can be done about this increasingly pressing issue?  Hilburn Hillestad of Geoplasma, an Atlanta-based firm, might have the answer. http://www.economist.com/node/18061104?story_id=18061104 Essentially what they have been creating is a clean, advanced way of disposing of waste; they are zapping it with a plasma torch, or artificial lightning, and turning it into nothing.  Vaporizing trash! So cool!  Well, it doesn't exactly turn into nothing.  The gas that is produced from this process is called syngas and it is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide which can then be used to generate electricity.  

Although this process is still in the beginning stages and is still costly, it could prove to be a revolutionary invention and perhaps help to counter pollution.  Until it becomes  more publicly available, we'll just have to sit tight and cross our fingers that this will someday have a positive impact on the environment on both a global and local level.

gcotter's picture

I agree

Yes, I read the same article in The Economist and had the same idea.  While the technology is still pretty new, it means that a city can use its own garbage to generate electricity to run the city.  

The Economist reported that the company, Geoplasma, is building a plant in Florida at a cost of $120 million but which will generate electricity for 20,000 homes. So, yes, it is expensive to convert to this technology but there is great potential for it.  And, as the technology has improved, private companies are finding this new process to be profitable.

Has anyone approached Sunset Waste Management (or Recology or whatever they call themselves) about this new technology?  As a city, SF has the ability to award contracts for waste disposal so we could, if we wanted, push for this.

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