Take Out Your Trash

When someone tells me something that sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Emails from Nigerian princes promising easy money, getting a letter that notifies me that I’ve won a free cruise to the Bahamas, or even a friend coming up and saying “Hey Michael- the Cubs are going to win the World Series this year” are all examples of this phenomenon. But what if I told you that that there was a type of energy production that seemed to good too be true- but actually was not?

Trash Incineration Plant in Sweden

There is a process, currently in existence, which will convert your garbage into energy to power your house. This is not a joke. Instead of throwing the over 165 million tons of trash into landfills every year, the United States could burn some of it and use it for energy production.

For some reason, this idea simply seems too good or too farfetched to actually be plausible. When Googled, one of the first results to show up is the Wikipedia page for the fictitious time-traveling DeLorean from Back to the Future. However, not only is this process possible, it is in fact already successful. Covanta Energy uses this process to provide power to over one million homes across North America, including over 100,000 in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Countries overseas have used this energy as well. Over nine percent of the power generated in The United Kingdom comes from this process.  Additionally, the UK is set to increase this number to 15% by 2020. Investments by Chinese investors in Western Europe alone have exceeded $790 million.

Trash in Naples


Sweden has also demonstrated just how successful this process can be. They are incredibly efficient with their trash, with only four percent of it ending up in landfills. Sweden is so advanced in their usage of this process that they actually import over 800,000 tons of trash from other countries and are looking for even more. Norway currently pays Sweden to take their trash, which amounts to them paying Sweden to create their own energy. Soon garbage from Italy, Bulgaria, and Romania could also be shipped to Sweden.

I’m not going to say that waste to fuel technology is going to save the world from Global Warming or provide enough energy for the US to be independent from our need of foreign oil. However, in order to solve all the energy and climate issues that we face, we need to be creative. The ingenuity of this process should not be overlooked simply because of the pre-conceived notion that trash is waste. Why not advance in this field, and provide more energy through our own trash?

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