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Trash Power: Dumping Energy Into A Grid Near You

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Even zero-waste events produce... waste. Maybe it's composted, maybe it's recycled, but it has to go somewhere. But, let's say your party wasn't a zero-waste event, or your house isn't a zero-waste home. Let's say, hypothetically, you sometimes throw things away.

For shame!

Well, forward-thinking environmentalists have got a potential use for your -- OK, fine, our -- uncompostable, unrecyclable waste: Let's turn it into power.

EcoGeek's Jaymi Heimbuch wrote earlier this week that Ottawa has approved a gasification power plant, which takes trash to high temperatures, without actually incinerating it, and turns it into a gas. According to the post, the plant will "daily convert 400 metric tons of trash to 21 megawatts of net electricity."

That's nothing to sneeze at.

The facility will be North America's first, but similar plants in Europe and Asia can be used as examples. And the new plant likely won't be lonely for very long. Hawaii also approved $100 M in bonds for a gasification plant using similar technology, and competitor Ze-gen is starting up a pilot plant on a much smaller scale in Massachusetts that will use molten rock to break down garbage.

Discovery News' Alyssa Danigelis reports that an Australian suburb is turning trash into energy starting riiiight abouuut... now.

This month the Macarthur Resource Recovery Park in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, began accepting its first batch of garbage from 300,000 people in the area. First the recyclables are sorted out and then billions of microbes (more bugs!) in giant tanks gobble up the refuse, producing methane for power. Unlike other setups that only snag 70 percent of the gas, this plant is expected to capture 100 percent of the methane emitted inside oxygen-free tanks.

The methane-capturing part is used in plenty of places, including breweries, which clean water (which had been used, incidentally, for cleaning) with dirt-eating microbes that excrete methane, which is captured and used to heat up water, which is boiled to at the beginning of the brewing process, which -- whew, don't get us started, and look for a sustainable beer post soon.

Point is, now people are finally using that on a large scale!

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