March 17, 2011
Yesterday, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill that would lift a statewide ban on landfill disposal of yard waste. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, HB 274* was written in partnership with waste companies, who claim the greenest way to handle yard waste is to bury it in landfills and subsequently capture the methane produced via landfill-gas-to-energy (LFGTE) technology. Meanwhile, environmental groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Composting Council and the city of Atlanta voiced strong opposition to the bill, insisting that lifting the ban would gut efforts to divert that material and hamstring the state's burgeoning composting industry.
The Heap is inclined to agree that deliberately landfilling yard waste is anything but green. LFGTE is a fantastic technology for harnessing methane from landfills already striving to capture greenhouse gas emissions, with the side benefit of power generation. But deliberately sending yard waste (and food waste, for that matter) to a landfill simply to feed that technology is misguided and cynical. Much greater (and more immediate) benefit can be gained by diverting yard waste from the waste stream and composting it or using it to generate power through anaerobic digestion (a much more efficient capture technology than LFGTE).
It's like shutting off your air conditioner to conserve energy, but then leaving your freezer door open to cool the house. Rube Goldberg logic is being used to justify what is basically a money-driven decision: waste companies are able to charge tipping fees on all of that bulky material coming in to the landfill and more fees for the methane-derived energy going out.
It may be a win-win for them, but it's a lose-lose for the environment.
* Original post erroneously cited Georgia HB 264.