The next time you watch TV, imagine that the electricity used to watch your favourite program was created by garbage. That's right, old apple cores, pumpkins and leaves helped turn on the TV. If it sounds like science fiction, it's not. The City of Calgary creates enough electricity to power about 1,600 homes each year.
So, how does garbage create electricity? Food and yard waste (organics) decomposing in landfills produces landfill gas. This gas consists roughly of equal parts carbon dioxide and methane (a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide).
Capturing emissions with technology
As part of our efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions, we designed the Landfill Gas Recovery and Utilization Project. At the East Calgary and Shepard landfills, we collect methane, treat it and use it as a fuel to generate electrical power.
This creates a win-win situation. Garbage is a free source of renewable energy, and when we use this technology, it reduces the need for more polluting forms of energy (like coal and oil) to create electricity.
Turning methane into electricity
Today, The City's three active landfill sites are our biggest source of greenhouse gases. It makes a difference when we collect methane at the East Calgary and Shepard landfills and turn it into electricity. In terms of helping our environment, it's about the same as the following:
- Taking 16,000 cars off the road
- Planting 24,000 acres of trees (eight times the size of Nose Hill Park)
- Using 180,000 fewer barrels of oil