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Trash is turning into power source

Methane gas produced by decomposing garbage is being used as fuel to generate electricity

Trash is turning into power source

Standing atop the 162-hectare 1-E landfill, you get a panoramic view of the Meadowlands sports complex to the north and the New York City skyline to the east. You're also standing on a critical part of New Jersey's, and the nation's, energy future.
Decades' worth of household trash, construction waste and assorted refuse buried in the landfill are providing electricity to thousands of homes.
"It's like you're buying back your own garbage, but in a different form," said Tom Marturano, director of solid waste and natural resources for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, which owns and operates the 1-E site.
The Kearny site is among 21 landfills in New Jersey where methane gas produced by decomposing garbage is used as fuel to generate electricity, according to the state Board of Public Utilities.
That is almost as many as in the state of Texas and more than the combined number in Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Nationwide, the federal Environmental Protection Agency counts 455 landfills that use their methane to generate electricity and has targeted more than 500 others as potential candidates through its Landfill Methane Outreach Program.
One of New Jersey's leading environmentalists envisions the state's landfills someday making more use of the sites by installing wind and solar power to supplement methane.
"We see landfills as potential New Age energy plants because you can combine all three and create a steady source of power _ and not everybody wants a windmill in their backyard," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.
Marturano cautioned that adding wind farms might take awhile because landfill surfaces are constantly shifting, but the Meadowlands Commission already has plans to install 8 hectares of solar panels on the southern side of the 1-E landfill.
Gov. Jors. Inactive landfills like 1-E are capped, usually with a plastic or rubber covering that prevents excess gas from escaping.
"People used to think of the landfills as wasted space," Marturano said. "But we're turning them from the juvenile delinquents of the district into productive members of society."