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Upstate New York County Planning Garbage-to-Gas Plant

Garbage from landfills like this one could be turned into methanol if a plant in New York is built

New York’s Ontario County is exploring the possibility of turning garbage into gas at the county’s landfill.

The county is debating whether to let Casella Waste Systems, which runs the landfill in the town of Seneca, build a $5 million pilot plant there. If the pilot proves successful, a $100 million plant could eventually be built on the site, reports the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. The idea will be debated at a public hearing tonight.

[social_buttons] Currently the landfill takes in about 2,200 tons of trash a day from 33 counties, other states and Canada.

The paper (full disclosure: I worked for the D&C for more than seven years) reports the project has stirred passions on both sides of the issue. Supporters say it would mark the county as a leader in reducing the amount of trash in landfills, create jobs and potentially generate revenue through the sale of the methanol that would be created. Opponents say that because of the mix of trash that gets dumped in landfills, burning it creates the risk of toxins being released into the air and water, along with other problems.

Casella says it could turn one ton of recycling scrap (leftovers that can’t be reused) into 100 gallons of methanol or diesel fuel for every hour the plant operates. There’s a well-done graphic explaining the process in the paper edition of the story, but it doesn’t seem to be online.

Lowell, Ind., was considering a similar plant, but vocal opposition has placed that project in limbo. Plasma-based gasification technologies are being explored in Florida, too. General Motors has also been investigating the process.

The Ontario County debate will provide an interesting test case. With landfill space at a premium communities are under pressure to find ways of dealing with their trash. Will this approach take hold?

Photo credit: D’Arcy Norman on Flickr, via a Creative Commons license.

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Written By

Dave has over a decade of experience in journalism covering a wide variety of topics. He spent 7 years on the business beat for the Rochester (N.Y) Democrat and Chronicle, covering technology issues including the state's growing green economy. When he's not writing, you'll find Dave enjoying his family, being a bit of a music snob, and praying that the Notre Dame football team can get its act together. He lives in Rochester.


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