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From Trash to Treasure: How Clean Energy and Waste Management are Turning Waste Into Green Fuel

By: Nick Leto

Nick Leto

on 15 April 2014

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Transcript of From Trash to Treasure: How Clean Energy and Waste Management are Turning Waste Into Green Fuel

From Trash to Treasure: How Clean Energy and
Waste Management are Turning Waste Into Green Fuel
By: Nick Leto
In Modern American society, the common fact is that we are known to create an insane amount of garbage (
65.5% of which goes to a landfill

The decomposition of organic material from garbage in landfills releases methane gas, which is a potent global warming pollutant.

At the same time, the modern transportation system is powered mostly by fossil fuels and also releases global warming and toxic air pollution.

The Dilemma
Although the ultimate solution to the problem of waste generation and pollution from landfills must include reduction of waste going into the landfills, the fact is landfills aren't going anywhere any time soon.

Many landfills combust methane from their garbage in onsite flares or engines, or vent it through carbon absorption systems. This release of combusted methane adds to negative public health aspects and climate impacts of the sites.

These actions are classified as highly
in regards to high public safety and the maintaining of a healthy ecosystem.


Today, two California companies are turning rotting lemons (garbage) into lemonade (low carbon fuels for cars and trucks), and are showing that AB 32 creates a powerful incentive for new ideas and innovations.
AB 32: Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, set forth a plan to reduce greenhouse gasses by 2020 in California (Signed into law 2006).

Clean Energy
Waste Management Inc.
are looking to change traditional management of landfill gas, deploying an innovation that can help reduce pollution from the transportation sector and lead to reduced landfill emissions.
Both companies are capturing landfill gas and turning it into an economically valuable commodity (called
) that displaces gasoline and diesel fuel from the economy.

Also, provided that leaks are prevented when the landfill gas is captured, processed and distributed to consumers, the work of these two companies can help the climate and help California reach its pollution reduction goals.

And because processed landfill burns much cleaner than petroleum based fuels, using it in cars and trucks can result in cleaner air and other public health benefits, a
practice that many companies are starting to notice.
What They're Doing


are taking note of the good work that Waste Management and Clean Energy are doing.

According to Julia Levin, executive director of the Bioenergy Association of California, "The work by Clean Energy and Waste Management on biomethane is a triple win for California. They are demonstrating that we can produce clean-burning natural gas fuel that significantly cuts greenhouse gas emissions, reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and cleans up our air, while simultaneously closing the loop on waste."
Not Going Unrecognized
Sharing the
In addition to reducing pollution through new technology, Waste Management and Clean Energy are showing leadership in other areas.

Along with EDF (Environmental Defense Fund), both companies are participating in a study led by West Virginia University to measure methane leakage from natural gas vehicles and fueling stations, the results of which are expected to be submitted for publication this summer.

Arizona landfills are designed with environmental concepts in mind.
With state-of-the-art technology, including advanced liners, leachate collections systems, ground water monitoring, and gas control equipment, Waste Management hopes to continue to expand their practices of sustainability throughout Arizona and the country.

All of these tools allow the landfills to operate efficiently, while ensuring environmental integrity.

Arizona can hope to expect sustainability programs like that of West Virginia and California to surface in the coming years, as it will be a key spot of attention (40x20 plan, Super Bowl, etc.).
There is an indisputable elegance to the idea of transforming garbage into fuel, but big drawbacks have prevented the wholesale adoption of trash-to-gas technology in the United States:

Incineration is polluting, and the capital costs of new plants are enormous. Gasification systems can expend a tremendous amount of energy to produce a tiny amount of electricity.

Though the concept is relatively new, if we can dispose of the waste and create energy at the same time, the result would be a silver bullet
Assembly Bill 32: Global Warming Solutions Act. (n.d.). Assembly Bill 32. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ab32/ab32.htm

Municipal Solid Waste. (2014, February 28). EPA. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://www.epa.gov/waste/nonhaz/municipal/

O'Connor, T., & Looker, C. (2014, April 11). How Clean Energy and Waste Management turn trash into green fuel. GreenBiz.com. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/04/11/clean-energy-waste-management-trash-fuel

Tullis, P. (2013, August 17). Trash Into Gas, Efficiently? An Army Test May Tell. The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/business/trash-into-gas-efficiently-an-army-test-may-tell.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Waste Management. (n.d.). Arizona. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://www.wm.com/location/arizona/az/areas/index.jsp

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