Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Loosening the Grip of the Grid

One of the distinctions made by zero waste advocates is that incineration of waste to reduce landfill use exacerbates pollution. Waste industry apologists credit Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's decision to withdraw limits on landfill expansion as an effort to avoid shifting the burden to incinerators.

That might be a defensible position if Maryland's landfill gas emissions were well controlled and not the highest human-caused source of methane in the state. Fortunately, the U.S. Appeals Court rode to the rescue in their recent ruling against the EPA's delay tactics on oil and gas well methane emissions. Since the EPA has also postponed the implementation of new landfill gas emissions requirements, expect that the court will also find that decision to be unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious. More landfills will then be required to incorporate gas collection and control systems. This should serve to pressure states to become more waste conscious.

Waste consciousness should not be left to government regulators. Citizens should police their own waste streams rather than shift the burden to government and industries. Energy and waste management businesses should absolutely be required to cut emissions from their operations, but individual households may find it economical to stop relying on those profiteers and find more DIY solutions.

Such solutions are not hard to find. Humanure composting is not a first world concept, but it makes economical sense. For other organic waste, a quick Google search led me to what appears to be an economical household replacement for capturing landfill gas emissions: a solution that would pay for itself by turning your "waste" into fertilizer and cooking gas. That biogas could also be used to purify water if you add a Stirling engine generator and water distiller, as inventor Dean Kamen and DEKA Research have been doing for the third world with their Slingshot system. The biogas generator may not be functional in the very cold months (though a straw bale enclosure next to one wall of the house might alleviate that), but I would probably only use it for outdoor cooking in seasonable periods anyway. If anyone out there knows my wife, please drop hints to her about what a great invention HomeBiogas is.

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