Waste should rarely go to waste. You might upcycle, recycle and donate at an impressive speed, but did you know that trash can be transformed into electricity, such a biogas? No, you’re not reading a sci-fi movie script idea!
Many places around the world are starting to think of garbage in new ways. An example of these is Puerto Rico. In June the Environmental Protection Agency said that it has approved the air permit for a 77 megawatt Energy From Waste (EfW) plant that will be built in Puerto Rico. This plant will transform more than 2,100 tons of garbage a day into renewable electricity for more than 76,000 homes. In so doing, it will also create thousands of jobs. This move towards renewable electricity is a huge eco step in Puerto Rico, where the electricity is derived from imported natural gas, coal and petroleum.
Kinder to the Atmosphere
These EfW plants do something wonderful for the preservation of our planet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, every ton of garbage that is processed at an EfW facility prevents approximately one ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. This is because garbage burned at the facility doesn’t produce the type of methane that is created in landfills. In Europe there are currently more than 400 facilities that are able to generate energy from waste. Northern Europe in particular has the largest share of plants that convert waste into energy.
Bring on the Biogas
When it comes to creating electricity at the industry or home level, biogas illuminates the way. Biogas is produced from the biological breakdown of organic matter. With a simple digester, various types of organic waste (such as plant matter or kitchen trash) can be converted into biogas. So, what’s so special about this gas? Biogas is composed of methane and carbon dioxide, and can be used as fuel for various tasks, such as cooking, water heating and producing electricity. Biogas prevents the unwanted landfill gas – methaneCH4 – from being created and it ensures a useful disposal of organic waste.
Organic waste is a source of natural energy that is becoming popular to use all over the world, however it is still largely unknown in South Africa. To date, only a small number of digesters have been built and commissioned so that biogas can be utilised. This is sad because biogas can ensure much greater environmental sustainability.
With so many of us using more organic products and therefore creating organic waste, biogas is definitely a great way to make use of our trash in exciting new ways.