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Turning Trash into Energy by CityTech blogger Frantzy Dor

Photo Credit: Matthew Lloyd / Bloomberg

A Danish energy company that goes by the name of Dong Energy is developing a new technology that would convert trash into energy by breaking down organic materials to create power. This process is unique because this company has developed a method that utilizes “waste streams” combined with recycling sorting technology. The implications for this type of technology would be highly regarded in a city such as New York. A walk-through New York City in the early hours of the morning would bring one to the realization that we need to do something with the piles of trash produced every day. The process by which Dong Energy redistributes waste material is known as the “Renescience” process. During this process mounds of trash is sorted into seven different types of materials that can then be used to create electricity or repurposed. Recycled material such as plastics, metals and biogas is placed in a 164 feet long tank which speeds up decomposition and the organic material that results is then used to create electricity. The entire process takes approximately 12 hours. By utilizing this technology, we would not only help sustain our power output, but we would also do a great deal to rid the streets and our landfills of putrid garbage.

 

Dong Energy’s target markets are large metropolitan areas that don’t currently have separate food waste collection sites. One of the big practical uses of this technology is to reduce the amount of waste piled up in landfills thus reducing the amount of methane gas released by these sites. Methane gas according to the Environmental Defense Fund is considered a greenhouse gas because it absorbs the sun’s heat which in turn warms up the atmosphere. The Environmental Defense Fund finds that about 25% of man-made global warming experienced today is due to methane emissions. Although it has been established by the scientific community that the main contributor to methane emissions comes from the oil and gas industry, it would not be astonishing to see growing rates in the foreseeable future. One possible reason for this is the growing population of people. As of 2016, The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there is an estimated 19.7 million people living in New York State alone. Energy consumption and waste would rise with growing population rates due to the simple fact that more people equals more junk. We need sustainable technologies that would allow us to leave a better world for our children by reducing or eliminating the harmful effects of methane gas emissions within our atmosphere. By incorporating the Renescience process in our waste management facilities we would theoretically kill “two birds with one stone”. This procedure would allow us to create sustainable energy and repurpose a great amount of waste material through its all-in-one infrastructure.

Renescience, as stated by Dong Energy, is not a method to alleviate the use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind but it might eliminate the need to build nuclear energy sources which can further damage the environment.

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4 Responses

  1. Love the idea of using this to sustain our current power output. This information should be distributed more to our communities and state governors to implement a plan to help this cause.

  2. As you mentioned, the amount of trash we produce (especially in cities) is a huge problem today. I’m sure that policy makers are considering how to handle trash, and are weighing various options. With this technique, how much energy does it take to convert the trash to energy? Recycling, even though it is a great and essential way to repurpose materials, has been noted to consume large amounts of energy. Since this process will in part use recycling, how is it going to be assured that the energy input is greater than and worth the energy output? Additionally, since the trash needs to be sorted in order for this technique to work, how will the company (and potentially others) ensure that the trash is being sorted effectively and efficiently? In other words, how will the company minimize the amount of time that the sorting process takes and maximize the quality of the sorting?

  3. I think that the implications of this technology in NYC are incredible. New York especially has been trying to grapple with its trash waste for years. This has been seen with its various landfill locations all across the city. Something that comes to mind immediately is the Fresh Kills landfill that has now been made a park. For years this landfill along with others has been used to deal with NYC’s waste. I wonder with this technology is there a large emission cost associated with converting this trash? those costs must be weighed against the benefits of the trash conversion.

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