Just outside Omaha, Nebraska, resides Waste Management’s Pheasant Point Landfill, where the company is using everyday waste to produce a form of renewable energy that provides enough electricity to power 4,400 homes.
It’s one of more than 130 similar facilities Waste Management has in operation across North America. In total, these operations provide more than 650 megawatts of power capacity. That’s enough to power nearly half a million homes and displace the equivalent of about 2.5 million tons of coal each year.
The technology at Pheasant Point is typical of what you would find at many of Waste Management’s landfills. Using a process called landfill-gas-to-energy, Waste Management uses an elaborate system of wells, pipes to collect, transport and process landfill gas, a natural byproduct of waste decomposition. Like wind and solar, landfill gas is a renewable source of energy endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency as an alternative to fossil fuels, such as coal and oil.
The process for converting landfill gas into energy begins with the collection of gas via a system of wells and pipes located throughout the landfill. The gas is then filtered and compressed so that it is usable as a fuel. From there, it’s transported to a nearby facility where it’s used to power a set of engines that are connected to an electrical grid. The whole process – from collection to energy production – takes just a few seconds.
Investing in this facility – and others – is part of Waste Management’s focus to find value in the materials that are thrown away, whether that’s through reuse, recycling or energy creation.
Beyond landfill-gas-to-energy, the company is continuing to pursue numerous technologies that give a second life to the items communities discard. Examples, among many others, include technologies like:
In each of these cases, materials are given renewed purpose through post-collection processing technology. It’s innovative. It’s resourceful. It’s a win for the environment.
So, remember this the next time you flick that light switch — from Omaha to Oakland and elsewhere across North America, you may be surprised where your energy is coming from.