Florida county plans to vaporize landfill trash

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A Florida county plans to build a facility to get rid of their landfills, generate electricity and produce construction material, all using a process called plasma gasification which vaporizes garbage at temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun.
The $425 million facility expected to be built in St. Lucie County will use plasma arcs to turn garbage into gas and rock-like material. It will be the first municipal plasma waste processing facility in the united states, and the largest in the world. Expected to be completed within 2 years, the 100,000 square food facility will process 3,000 tons of waste per day. Fed not only with waste being produced currently, the facility will also begin to process the waste already in the county landfill. Estimates predict that the entire volume of the existing landfill, 4.3 million tons of trash collected since 1978, will be processed within 18 years.
Up to eight plasma arc-equipped cupolas will vaporize trash year-round, non-stop. Garbage will be brought in on conveyor belts and dumped into the cylindrical cupolas where it falls into a zone of heat more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is sufficient to destroy all organic matter including plastics, drives off all moisture, and greatly reduces the volume of the waste. The process generates a synthetic combustible gas, which will be burned in turbines to produce up to 120 megawatts of power, with fewer emissions than a natural gas power plant. The plasma facility will power itself with about one third of the outputted power, so it won’t be taking any power from the grid. The solid material left over from the process is a chemically inert glassy rock substance, which can be safely used in road construction. The electrical generation process also produces excess steam, which nearby Tropicana Inc. will buy to power their juice manufacturing facility.

Louis Circeo, director of Georgia Tech’s plasma research division, said that as energy prices soar and landfill fees increase, plasma-arc technology will become more affordable.

“Municipal solid waste is perhaps the largest renewable energy resource that is available to us,” Circeo said, adding that the process “could not only solve the garbage and landfill problems in the United States and elsewhere, but it could significantly alleviate the current energy crisis.”

He said that if large plasma facilities were put to use nationwide to vaporize trash, they could theoretically generate electricity equivalent to about 25 nuclear power plants.

Combined with the practice of mining for metals in landfills, this is an excellent solution to the current problem of our increasing stockpiles of garbage. However this isn’t a permanent solution, we must focus on eliminating our production of garbage by:

  • making more products and their packaging biodegradable and/or recyclable
  • greatly increasing the availability of recycling facilities
  • reducing the amount of packaging used
  • changing product purchases to product leases, so the products are returned to the manufacturer for proper recycling and disposal instead of being landfilled.

Geoplasma, via USA Today

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About

Steve holds a degree in Environmental Engineering Technology from Humber College in Toronto, is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. He currently lives in Victoria BC and works as a green building consultant specializing in residential projects.

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