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Onwards With Optimism Part A + B

Onwards with Optimism Part A + B
By Will White
Science 9
Title of Innovation – (SWACO) Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio’s plan to reuse Methane
from Landfills
Theme: Geoengineering
Background Science:
Methane is made up of one Carbon atom and four Hydrogen atoms (𝐢𝐻4 )
Methane has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 21 which makes it a dangerous gas
and even more due to its abundant presence in the atmosphere (See Figure A)
When Methane is burned in the presence of Oxygen, it changes into Carbon Dioxide and
water vapour
Methane is the main ingredient in Natural Gas
Explanation of The Innovation:
Landfills are a top contributor to the emissions of Methane into the atmosphere. The
innovation’s goal is to capture and reuse, or destroy the methane from landfills to
prevent it from reaching the atmosphere. While this is done in Canada, SWACO does a
great job at showing everything they do.
SWACO is focusing on capturing the Methane using advanced systems with special
pipelines and gas collection wells and then sending to their facilities to convert into
natural gas and electricity to be used by the public (Businesses, Public Transportation,
Homes, ETC)
The gas is converted to electricity by burning the gas and using the thermal radiation to
generate electricity. Very good for environment because it uses dangerous gas from
landfill, and uses it as a clean energy source
Excess gas is burned using flares (Large pipes which ignite the gas) to abate the
Methane’s danger when it has all its atoms together. When the gas is burned it
separates into one Carbon dioxide molecule and two water molecules which are less
harmful greenhouse gases. This creates per one Methane molecule, 25 Carbon Dioxide
Summary: Methane gets produced due to garbage from landfills decomposing, SWACO
and other companies in different projects collect the Methane, send to special facility
changing into natural gas to give electricity or burn to create less harmful GHG’s
(Greenhouse Gases)
Figure B
Figure A
Corroborated Information:
Disputed ground: The future of landfill gas-to-energy – Wastedive
The article gave a very strong breakdown and introduction into the innovation, Landfill Methane
Capture. It also talked about concerns risen by organizations and companies as well as what
those and other companies are doing. For example, groups like Sierra Club, who are referenced
voice their concerns over how “Landfill gas capture systems are not effective at mitigating net
emissions, because any escaped methane poses a risk.” Detailed inside it talks more about the
operational use of the facilities, such as how they are very effective as a cheaper system
compared to anaerobic digesters. According to LMOP referenced here, using this system 1
million tonnes of municipal waste can create 0.78 MW of electricity which is a lot of electricity.
Lastly, another favourited factor of landfill gas that encourages operators is the large economic
benefit through carbon credits and selling the electricity.
Reaction To The Innovation:
From CBC News –
I give this article two thumbs up. I thought it gave a very advanced and well researched
breakdown in such a short space. I felt that this overall was a high tier article due to the fact it
was able to squeeze a large complicated topic into a compact bundle of scientific joy. I also
enjoyed more specifically how they expressed exactly how much energy the company was
producing in terms of smartphones charged, because this felt like I could truly understand how
much they were making. CBC also, to my impression made a very scientifically oriented article
that is still digestible to people who are not familiar to the innovation in question. Overall, this
article gets my full support because it beautifully summarized the innovation, landfill methane
capture whilst also making it easily understandable to a non scientifically experienced reader.
Provocative Quotes:
"Landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions, so they're really a big
source of climate pollution," - Peter Zalzal
Landfills generate methane as organic waste decomposes. Rather than getting
released as emissions, that methane can be captured and used to produce
electricity. – Project Drawdown
Honest Reflection with Personal Connection:
This project has instilled in me a deeper understanding of how even terrible things can help so
much. Before this project, I never thought landfills could be such a gold mine and thought they
were just a carbon source with no mean of helping humanity. But I was really enlightened and
very interested in this interesting new way of producing electricity when I discovered it. I will
admit however, this project did bore and infuriate me at sometimes due largely to a seeming
lack of information regarding this innovation however it ended out all right by the end. Also,
shifting my view, I think it is very impressive what SWACO is doing, because I never really
imagined that this would be an innovation used by governments when I first found it as I
pictured it to be more corporation and money earning oriented.
I connected to this project because I always wondered what really happens to all the garbage
that goes into landfills. My family is very passionate about recycling and reusing which is why I
have been influenced this way. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I used to wander the streets of
downtown Vancouver and see garbage bins overflowing with waste, put out by humans. I was
heartbroken to think about where it goes and who it will inevitably harm. But now that I have
done this project, I can rest slightly easier to know that this waste is being recycled and put into
homes as electricity through projects done in Vancouver like SWACO’s. All in all, my connection
to this project was the reason for this innovations invention, the garbage, and how it makes me
feel safer to know that this carbon source is at least being reused than just left to pollute.
Sources Cited:
“Overview of Greenhouse Gases.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 28 May 2020,
“Basic Information about Landfill Gas.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 4 May 2020,
“Methane Capture and Use.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency,
“Landfill Methane Capture @ProjectDrawdown #ClimateSolutions.” Project Drawdown, 1 Mar.
2020, drawdown.org/solutions/landfill-methane-capture.
Harding, Tom. “CC_Greenhouse Effect (3).” Google Slides, Google,
“Gas-to-Energy Project: SWACO, OH.” Gas-to-Energy Project | SWACO, OH,
Harding, Tom. “CC-SSS-9.” Google Docs, Google,
Witynski, Max. “Disputed Ground: The Future of Landfill Gas-to-Energy.” Waste Dive, 12 July
2019, www.wastedive.com/news/disputed-ground-the-future-of-landfill-gas-toenergy/557706/.
Gustin, Georgina, et al. “Trump EPA Gives Landfills a Pass on Climate-Warming Methane.”
InsideClimate News, 10 Apr. 2018, insideclimatenews.org/news/23052017/methane-rulestrump-epa-obama-clean-power-plan-waste-management-delay.
“Landfill Hits Milestone Capturing Methane from Garbage to Produce Power | CBC News.”
CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 13 Mar. 2019, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newbrunswick/eco360-methane-burning-generator-1.5054217.