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Paul Bulla: How Urban Waste Is Powering Rural Sustainability

The term “sustainability” is used more and more in urban settings today. With cities expanding, buildings reaching new heights and global populations exploding, it’s logical to implement environmentally responsible initiatives to dispose of the wastes these lifestyles generate. But what we don’t hear much about is the importance of sustainability after disposing of these wastes. Quite often, final disposal occurs in massive landfills, where waste is left to slowly decompose for many years.

 

The concept of using gas from landfills to generate power is both innovative and simple, allowing for significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions every hour of every day. Decomposing waste in landfills generates a combination of methane and carbon dioxide gases. Without proper controls, these gases escape into the atmosphere. But at modern landfills with readily available and proven technology, we can capture the landfill gas and properly destroy it by feeding it into gas flares, gas-fired engines or other combustion devices for beneficial uses.

The potential power output from landfill gas is staggering. In Ontario, two landfills in the communities of Niagara Falls and Moose Creek generate enough gas to power 5,000 Canadian homes. Energy for 5,000 homes is more than significant — it can set the foundation for a local economy to flourish.

Take Moose Creek, where electricity derived from the landfill feeds into the local grid that supplies power to an innovative nearby business, Moose Creek Tire Recycling, which converts waste tires into rubber mats for livestock. The company exports agricultural mats to 39 countries around the world.

In Niagara Falls, sustainability has a dual role to play in maintaining jobs and supporting a vital local industry. The Niagara community is responsible for the majority of all wine production in Ontario, and the local Walker Environmental Group landfill uses landfill gas to create clean energy that then goes to the local grid, providing power to nearby wineries and vineyard infrastructure. Niagara’s waste-to-energy initiative is also preventing excess greenhouse gases from escaping into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.

Our company, working alongside companies like Walker Environmental Group, view landfills and specifically landfill gas as a significant opportunity for renewal and economic development. Sustainability may have started as a “green” initiative, but in my native province of Ontario, I’ve seen sustainability through landfill gas utilization provide jobs and prosperity.

Paul Bulla is Vice President of Operations for Comcor Environmental Limited, a leading Canadian firm in landfill gas management and environmental engineering since 1985. Comcor is a partner in Integrated Gas Recovery Services Inc., a Canadian developer of landfill gas to energy projects.

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