Processing MSW into energy can be done in two different ways. The first method involves burning the waste and using the energy released to create electricity. The second method of converting MSW into energy involves putting the waste into a landfill that captures the methane gas released when the garbage breaks down. These landfills utilize the methane gas created as an alternative energy source, and this gas can be used for heat or electricity. Methane gas must be treated so that impurities are removed before it can be used in homes. Methane gas has no color and cannot be seen. It is also odorless. Because this gas can be dangerous when it builds up, specifically related to health concerns, landfills must collect and dispose of the gas when it accumulates. Some landfills will burn off the methane gas instead of collecting and treating it, but more and more landfills are using methods to capture, treat, and use the methane gas as an energy source instead of just burning it off to prevent risks. There are hundreds of landfills that have methane recovery systems in place. In Kentucky, for example, methane gas collected from landfills is used to power thousands of homes each year.
Both methods used to convert MSW into energy can be very effective. With the abundance of trash in landfills, something must be done to get rid of trash without polluting the environment even more. Converting MSW into an energy source is the perfect solution to the garbage problem and crowded landfills. Whether the waste is burned to release energy or is put into special landfills to decompose and create methane gas that is collected and used as a source of energy, the result is a renewable energy source that is environmentally friendly and reduces dependence on fossil fuels and traditional energy sources.
With all of the garbage collecting in landfills, using MSW as an energy source may end up being the answer to the current energy problems being faced. Sooner or later the earth will no longer have an abundance of oil and natural gas available for recovery, and this may happen sooner than many people think, with many third world countries developing and facing an increasing need for energy. MSW as an alternative energy source can prevent a world-wide oil and gas crisis in the future by making renewable energy available that reduces the need for fossil fuels, now. It may seem like something from a science fiction magazine, but when you put your garbage out you may be providing an alternative energy source in the form of MSW.