You can only count on two things, Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote goes; Death and Taxes. Well, there is a third answer that is just as unpleasant, and that is garbage. One thing we can all count on is to have a steady pile of trash accumulating under our sinks, our trash cans and our streets. Collection trucks in the typical landfill at Cerro Colorado deliver about 1400 TONS of garbage every weekday! That is a lot of trash. In fact, we are running out of space for all our trash.
It is scary enough that the neighborhood sledding hill might be nothing else than an older landfill but the news gets worse. The decomposition rate of our trash is definitely slower than predicted: During an excavation of a landfill, newspapers dating back to 1948 where intact and still completely readable! Being made of thin paper, and surrounded by waste and dirt, this old news was expected to degrade years ago.
Thankfully, with companies like Covanta Energy turning trash into useful electric power, our garbage is not just thrown out and wasted (no pun intended). On their website, Covanta Energy boasts technology that “processes 15 million tons of solid waste per year conserving 25,000,000 cubic yards of landfill space and generating 8,250,000 megawatt hours of electricity – the equivalent of burning 3.5 million tons of coal.” http://www.covantaholding.com/
This technology is relatively straightforward. The trash is picked up and burned creating steam resulting in energy. Covanta operates 24 hours a day thus making it a very reliable source. Unfortunately garbage is still a part of our society and until the abundance of trash is reduced, burning it is a welcome alternative to simply burying it underground. In fact, the ash that results from burning trash is only 10% of the original mass.
Ironically, trash is not completely useless anymore. With today’s attitude of conserving the environment that is left and being as efficient as possible with our resources the only surprise is that this option was not developed sooner. Taking out the trash is just the first step to getting the energy needed to watch your tv.