Landfills are the most common place for waste to be deposited in the developed world and though they are necessary, they produce a number of hazardous effects. A primary issue centers around methane production that results from landfill waste.
Methane gases have been directly linked to global warming and the overall degradation of the atmosphere. According to the Global Methane Initiative, more than half of the methane entering the atmosphere comes from human activities and 11 percent of the methane comes directly from landfills. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change argues that methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, many times more potent than CO2 in the short term. Further, global methane release has shown significant increases since 2007. This research has driven officials and leaders in the waste management sector to look at dramatic ways to innovate their waste management processes.
The drive to push the population to reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse has been instrumental in increasing sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions but innovators are seeking more technologically advanced ways to not only reduce the amount of waste in our landfills but to use the waste as a sustainable resource.
It is well known that transportation in itself is a pollutant. A significant game-changing innovation currently being developed will see municipal solid waste, that would otherwise be landfilled, converted into low carbon transportation fuels including jet fuel and diesel. One leading company based in the U.S., Fulcrum BioEnergy, claims it has the ability to convert the garbage generated by more than one million people into 30 million gallons of clean renewable fuel.
The technology is being investigated in many other parts of the world. The International Council of Clean Transportation is examining waste as an untapped resource and claims that converting waste into biofuels could replace 16 percent of Europe’s transport fuel by 2030 and potentially create greenhouse gas savings of more than 60 percent.
Fortunately, the technology to advance this sector has already been developed. The most important factors that will make this innovation a reality is serious commitment from global policy makers, which in turn will invite funding from critical investors.
“Alternative fuels from wastes and residues offer real and substantial carbon savings […] The resource is available, and the technology exists–the challenge now is to put a policy framework in place that allows rapid investment,” said Chris Malins, a researcher.
Information sourced from the Global Methane Initiative, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and The International Council of Clean Transportation.