Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Electricity Producing Landfills

Just like we can use garbage to produce energy efficient products, we can also use landfills to produce electricity. Microorganisms that live in organic materials like wasted food, yard clippings or paper cause this garbage to decompose. As its decomposing, it is emmitting landfill gas usually made of 60 percent methane and 40 percent carbon dioxide. It is said that these emmissions can supply up to 1 percent of the nations energy demand if conserved. Therefore, emmitting these gases into the atmosphere, it is unhealthy for the environment, but if we can conserve these gases, it could be utilized for electrical uses. These gases can be collected by drilling "wells" and collecting these gases through pipes. It is then combined with natural gas to fuel conventional combustion turbines or used to fuel small combustion turbines. This changes the way landfills can be ran, because these pollutants are the major "side-effect" to having so much trash in one place such as a landfill (powerscorecard.org). Although we can not change landfills into anything "green" like energy star appliances, drilling these wells to absorb landfill gases can help conserve our primary source of electricity. Its a win win for the landfill vs. environment war.

powerscorecard.org, Electricity From: Landfill Gas, 2000.


Keeping things out of landfills & saving the planet

We have learned how landfills affect the environment in a harmful way, but what can we do to keep trash out of them and re-use them for new products? Well, the answer is in Energy Star products and other energy efficient items used in many new homes today. One company named Mar-Flex Building Solutions is on top of the game with their innovated ways of using recycled materials to build and use in houses. Their building products contain 25 to 100 percent recycled materials, even though current building industry standards only require 10 percent to be considered a "green" product. The first green product made by Mar-Flex was Shockwave in 2007. It was a crushproof drain board that protects the concrete. The Shockwave was made of scrap from car seats and dashboards that was heated to 350 degrees to hold together. It was the only one in the world made of 100 percent recycled material. They later produced more green products such as an air barrier, Vortex, etc (Levingston, Chelsey). Another way to help the environment and keep waste out of landfills is re-using parts from old cars in a "bone yard" then going an buying brand new parts. You can get just about anything you need for your car for a very cheap price, and it is helping the environment at the same time.

Levingston, Chelsea. Mar-Flex Developing Building Products Made From 100% Recycled Materials. 4/11/11. http://www.middletownjournal.com/news/middletown-news/mar-flex-developing-building-products-made-from-100mar-flex-developing-building-products-made-from-100-recycled-materials-1132692.html

Monday, April 11, 2011

Greenhouse Gases Caused By Landfills

Greenhouse gases are the largest reason we are facing global warming today. These gases are depleting the ozone layer that blocks the suns UV rays, and Landfills are only adding to its affect. According to Liesch.com, "Landfills are considered the largest anthropogenic (caused by humans) source of methane (CH4) in the United States. Methane is one of the major greenhouse gases. 2) Landfills produce additional greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (N2O) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs)" (C-Davies). The best way to tell whether or not a particular landfill is dangerous to the environment or not is to take its carbon footprint. This tells exactly how much it is effecting the earth, particularly the part it plays in greenhouse gas emissions.

A good way to lower greenhouse gas emission caused by landfills is to store toxic chemicals in container or "carbon sinks" so that the gases do not pollute the air. Another popular practice is the "Carbon Credits." Many large companies that dont use all of their credits trade their credits with others that need them. It is almost then evened out. One particular contributor to greenhouse gases gives out less carbon, and another makes up for what that company did not use (Liesch.com).

C. Davies. "Managing Your Landfill's Carbon Footprint." 4/1/2009. http://www.liesch.com/news/managing-your-landfill%E2%80%99s-carbon-footprint

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pollution caused by landfills

As we already know, garbage causes many pollution problems and when piles of garbage sitting in one area for years is mixed with different chemicals and weather conditions, it can be fatal to the environment. The biggest gas that comes from landfills that effect the air quality is methane gas. It is greenhouse gas that comes from decomposition and it is very dangerous. According to the Energy Justice Network, "Landfill gas is about 40-60% methane, with the remainder being mostly carbon dioxide (CO2). Landfill gas also contains varying amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, sulfur and a hundreds of other contaminants -- most of which are known as "non-methane organic compounds" or NMOCs. Inorganic contaminants like mercury are also known to be present in landfill gas. Sometimes, even radioactive contaminants such as tritium (radioactive hydrogen) have been found in landfill gas" (Mike Ewall). Landfills would be a primary pollutant because the toxic chemicals are hazardous before even mixing with oxygen or any other element. Many chemicals only add to the destruction of the ozone layer that ultimately causes global warming and other environmental problems. Landfills used to be less threatening to the earth and the people living around them, but not that more plastics and toxic materials are being used everyday, it is causing more and more problems once reaching a landfill. The attached picture shows this, they are finding more and more plastic and aluminum products in landfills which take thousands of years to decompose in a landfill.

Ewall, Mike. Primer on Landfill Gas as "Green" Energy, November 2007. http://www.energyjustice.net/lfg

Monday, March 21, 2011

Landfill Soil

Good soil is one of the most important factor of many things, especially farming, but not many people know that soil also plays a big part in landfills. Each day, the landfill is covered with a layer of soil to help aid in decomposition (Bansal, K.M. and Sugiarto). This soil is usually transported to the landfill daily from an outside source since it takes a very long time for soil to appear. The texture, wetness, and slope affect the ability to spread the soil over the landfill during different seasons. The best type of soil to use over a landfill has less stones and gravel mixed in then others. These are more difficult to spread over the area. All of the soil used should be suitable for plants even though it is simply covering waste (www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov).

Not only is the soil highly necessary for a landfill, it is also very expensive and takes up just as much space as the garbage itself. The soil is more frequently exposed to pollution in a landfill as well, the soil chemicals change dramatically. This is imaginable from the constant flow of toxins that leak into the soil and ground water (K. Jeevan Rao and M.V. Shantaram). This make its all the more fascinating when thinking about the new found ability to restore a landfill, since as mentioned before, good soil is cruticial to the ability to grow crops. The chemicals in the soil is what helps break down the waste, although it is an extremely slow process.

Bansal, K.M., and Sugiarto, 1999, "Exploration and Production Operations – Waste Management A Comparative Overview: US and Indonesia Cases," SPE54345, SPE Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference, Jakarta, Indonesia, April 20-22.

Sanitary Facilities, Sanitary Landfills.

K. Jeevan Rao
and M.V. Shantaram, Soil and Water Pollution Due to Open Landfills. 12/3/2005.

Landfill Restoration

When thinking of the years of garbage that is dumped into a landfill, it is almost impossible to imagine that anything good can come from it if it were ever closed. Although it is hard to imagine, it is possible. Proof of this was found after the Fresh Kills landfill was closed down in Staten Island. This was one of the largest landfills in the United States that dumped 29,000 tons of trash a day in it. When it was closed, they attempted to turn it into a nature preserve. Now there is grass and wildflowers growing over what used to be bags of garbage. Also, instead of mice and other rodents roaming the area, it is now being occupied frequently by red tail hawks and white tail deer (Kimbrell, Nick). Although this seems easy, it hasnt always been this way. Past studies have shown concern that the roots of the trees were not growing deep enough in the soil, causing a leak of landfill gases. They found that if mineral caps are used, restoration can be done safely (Rudi-net.com).

Kimbrell, Nick, Can A Landfill Site Ever Return To Nature?. 7/6/10.

Restoring landfill into green space such as woodland and parkland is viable, says report. 1997-2011.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Diseases Caused by Landfills

Many people may think that landfills do not cause harm to people that do not come in direct contact with them, but they are wrong. Landfills can cause many different diseases and health problems that we may not even know relate. As learned previously, the leachette systems do not hold toxic waste in for long periods of time, allowing toxins to seep in the soil and water. Some of the diseases that can be cause by this action are cancer, kindney and liver disease, brain and nerve damage, malaria, cholera, and dysentry (eHow.com). Different chemicals in waste cause different diseases. For example, if the soil was contaminated with lead, a person that comes in contact with that soil can acquire kidney or liver disease. Soil contaminated with pesticides or weed killers may cause all types of cancer. It is not just the soil that is affected, but the water as well as it seeps through the soil into the citys water system (eHow.com).

Although it has yet to be confirmed, in the city of Greensboro, NC, their have been significantly higher reports of pancreatic cancer cases near the towns landfill then in any other surrounding city in the state. They also believe that it is from toxins leaking into the soil and into the water supply (Lehmert, Amanda).

E., Jenny, Diseases Caused by Soil Pollution, 3/12/2010. http://www.ehow.com/list_6064235_diseases-caused-soil-pollution.html

Lehmert, Amanda, Cancer Cases Higher Near Landfill. 11/13/2009. http://www.news-record.com/content/2009/11/13/article/cancer_cases_higher_near_landfill