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[GreenYes] the ZW vision and bioreactors... Is it time we spoke up?

Greetings GreenYessers,

In the search for new energy sources, it is starting to look like "waste
based energy systems" is arising as a major barrier to fulfilling our vision
of Zero Waste Communities. In my view of the world, "source-separated
organics" collected and delivered as a clean stream to a compost facility to
make high-quality compost is the correct and sustainable public policy path.
Somewhere in that system lies the potential to process the material in an
anaerobic digester to capture the gas before the compost process.

However, the energy production from a "bioreactor" landfill is being sold as
a major benefit. Is this true? I think not, but unfortunately I can't
attach a nice short PDF report to prove that because our side of the debate
hasn't produced it yet. It is time that we, the Zero Waste advocates of
the world, get our act together and start publishing the data and arguments
to support our vision and counter our opposition.

Eric Lombardi


GRRN Board

The Missourian

A proposed bill would bring a bioreactor landfill to the city.


April 18, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY - A "fairly giant research project" could turn Columbia's
trash into enough electricity to generate up to 5 percent of the city's
power needs, state officials said Tuesday.

The project, aided by a bill proposed by Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington,
would allow city residents to dump their yard waste into a bioreactor
landfill. The yard waste, including grass clippings, tree limbs, and leaves,
would mix with the landfill's household trash, thus decomposing faster and
speeding up the production of methane gas, said Jim Hull, director of the
solid waste management program for the Missouri Department of Natural

Although bioreactor landfills act much like common landfills, the city would
increase decomposition through circulating leachate - the liquid found in
trash - and adding oxygen or water.

The city would then capture the gas and turn it into electricity.

"Will it be enough to fuel the whole city? No," Engler said. "Will it take
some of the load off? Yes."

Engler presented his bill to the House Energy and Environment Committee on
Tuesday. Under the bill, residents in areas that house bioreactor landfills
would be allowed to combine their yard waste with their everyday trash.
Currently, Columbia residents must separate yard waste from ordinary waste.

Engler praised the potential bioreactor landfill project for disposing of
yard waste, producing energy, and, since the waste decomposes faster,
creating additional space in landfills.

He said it could also save money for about 300 Missouri communities that
have separate yard waste management services. "And that's why it's a
win-win," Engler said.

Eric Lombardi, executive director of Eco-Cycle, a nonprofit zero-waste
company based in Boulder, Colo., said the process is more complicated and
hardly beneficial.

"The problem is that, according to a couple sources, including the IPCC
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the lifetime capture rate when
you bury biodegradable material is only 20 percent," Lombardi said, "which
means 80 percent is released into the environment."

Lombardi said releasing 80 percent of the landfill's methane gas, which is
among the top 10 greenhouse gases, could increase global warming. According
to the Environmental Protection Agency, such landfills could also release
more odor.

Despite such concerns, House committee members raised few doubts about the

Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, who is sponsoring a similar vision of the bill in
the House, said the project would help the city reach its renewable energy
goals. A Columbia ordinance states that by the end of the year, 2 percent of
its power must come from renewable energy sources.

He said Columbia is willing to pay $3.5 million for the state's first
bioreactor landfill, which would save the city some $800,000 a year, since
it could consolidate its trash pick-up routes.


Copyright C 2007 Columbia Missourian

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