It’s a depressing reality that no matter how diligently you recycle, compost and repurpose, a huge amount of your trash still ends up baking in the sun in a landfill. The EPA estimates that U.S. residents and businesses produce more than 245 million pounds of MSW (that’s municipal solid waste, i.e. trash) per year — which works out to a whopping 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day.
What’s so bad about just letting the garbage pile up? Well, for starters, landfills give off copious amounts of methane (often referred to as “landfill gas”), which can be up to 20 times more harmful to the atmosphere than CO2. Programs that collect and burn this gas for energy have been successful for many years (last year the landfill gas programs in the U.S. produced over 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity), but down on the ground the trash keeps growing, leaching chemicals into the soil and forming a breeding ground for rodents, bacteria and disease. A few companies, such as Fairfield, Ohio-based Finn Corp. and New Zealand’s EcoCover, offer environmentally-friendly products that cover the trash, saving space over the traditional dirt cover and reducing odors. Yet landfills keep growing.
Turns out there’s no problem so big that Texas won’t take it on. San Antonio-based PowerMaster recently announced the launch of its patented Recyclone technology, an “eco-friendly gyroscopic grinder” that munches through landfills and turns the trash into energy, recyclable materials and dry fluff.
The dry part is important, because by removing the moisture from waste, the process reduces bacteria, odors and disease, as well as drastically reducing groundwater leaching. It also claims to be able to reduce waste into pellets which “burn better than coal.” The company’s president, Lila York, points out in a release that: “The world is running out of landfill space. Some states and even countries now have to export their garbage because they don’t have anywhere to put it.”
The company, which was founded in 1981, says the machine can extend the life of current landfills by 700 percent and reduce the waste volume by half. It won’t solve our pollution problems, but it should buy us some more time to figure out something better.