Old technology offers an alternative to tilting at windmills and plugging cow flatulence. We can create clean energy and clean building materials out of landfill and coal ash. What this means is that growing landfills can be reduced in size or eliminated completely; and the same goes for mountains of coal ash. Plus, the process could be a “revenue enhancer” for cash-starved municipalities” only, in this case the revenue will be from real production by private industry rather than new taxes. (Correction of PC term. Revenue is created from production. Taxes are not “revenue,” because they have done nothing to produce anything.)
Over the next few years, the buzz terms will be “trash to cash,” “Land Fill Mining (Total Clean Closure)” and “Plasma Separation.” The output will be clean steam for electric power, paving blocks, materials for wall retention and general building materials of all types” with tremendous strength and insulation quality. The cash portion is that “residue” of the plasma furnaces will be worth over $400/metric tonne.
The process is now economically feasible because of the high cost of maintaining current landfills, that is being overcome by the high value of the metals and materials that can be recovered”not to mention that our cities are running out of space for the junk.
Landfill mining already is a budding industry in the UK and the EU. A British company, Advanced Plasma Power, has a joint venture to mine a giant landfill in Hassett, Belgium, where it is projected to recycle at least half of the trash to building materials and with the other half going to create methane to power a 60MW electric plant, enough for 60,000 homes. Operations are projected to start in 2014. The project is expected to last at least 30 years and will mine 16.5 million tonnes of city waste near Hassett. While this project is being touted as the world’s first of its kind, the real roots are here in the USA.
It began in the late 1960s in a plant on Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, VA. Back then, NASA developed a process involving plasma furnaces, that converted everything (especially trash) to a liquid or a gas. The process prevented the creation of toxic gasses and eventually enabled the recovery of industrial metal for reuse. The plant also produces steam for some of the electricity and heat needs for the City of Hampton. The plant has been operating for over 40 years and never has received the attention it deserves.
When asked by why this process was not used more widely, Edwin C. Kilgore told The Meyers Report that lobbying groups were the likely answer. Kilgore was one of NASA’s former top executives, who was involved with the development of the plant and his wife was a former mayor of Hampton.
Reuse of waste is not new and actually began in the 1950s in the US, when coal ash was used as a filler for cinder blocks. “It seems that as soon as we find a use for waste, some agency or interest group found a way to make it more difficult and expensive to reuse the waste,” said Charles Husson, another retired top NASA engineer. “The question is will we do this again?”