Fluid Bed Gasifier Plant. Credit Advanced Plasma Power
In Jim Kunstler's World Made By Hand, the former motorheads in town mine the dump for resources. There is a lot of valuable stuff in dumps; it has been cheaper to bury stuff than to recycle or compost it. They are also filling up, and nobody wants new ones in their backyard. In Belgium, Advanced Plasma Power is building a plant at a huge landfill site to mine the garbage, separating out the recyclable materials and converting the rest into synthetic fuel.
really? Image credit APP
Tim Webb writes in the Guardian:
The 30-year project will reuse 16.5m tonnes of municipal waste dumped since the 1960s at the landfill site near Hasselt in eastern Belgium. APP will use its plasma technology to convert the methane produced by the rubbish, which is more than 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, into usable gas. This will fuel a 60MW power plant capable of supplying 60,000 homes.
APP has developed a four stage process of converting waste into "a clean hydrogen-rich syngas and a vitrified recyclate called Plasmarok® that can be used as a building material or replacement aggregate." They claim it produces little or no emissions and "almost nothing is left - around 2% of input volumes - for landfill." They also claim that it has a negative carbon footprint.
It is not without risk. An environmental lawyer pointed out that there are health and safety issues: "in many cases, for older "mature" sites, there are inexact records of what lies below."
Others point out that burning anything creates pollution, and that it is an incinerator in disguise. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives claims:
Incinerators with names like "gasification," "pyrolysis," "plasma arc," and "waste-to-energy" all emit dioxins and other harmful pollutants, despite industry claims that they are "green" technologies....The short track record of pyrolysis, plasma and gasification incinerator technologies has shown even higher costs, less dependability, and inconsistent energy generation. In addition, data show that dioxins, furans and other toxins are formed in these systems, and in some cases, toxins are formed in higher quantities than in conventional mass-burn incinerators.
But existing dumps are emitting harmful pollutants while they sit there, creating greenhouse gases through rotting, and leaking toxic leachates. Perhaps mining them for fuel and materials is the lesser of two evils.
More in the Guardian: Why landfill mining could be the next big thing
More on landfill mining:
There's Gold In Them Thar Smelly Hills
Landfill Gas to Energy: A Growing Alternative Energy Resource
British Airways' to Create Jet Fuel from Landfill Waste