Landfill gas to energy operations in Michigan turns Canada’s trash into cash

July 10, 2014 0 By Alicia Moore

Landfill gas to energy - garbage truck

Garbage from Ontario is wanted for the Smiths Creek Sanitary Landfill.

The landfill is owned by St. Clair County in Michigan, which is right across the border from Sarnia, Ontario, but what makes it unique is it has a bioreactor that converts landfill gas produced from decomposing trash into energy, which is sold to the electricity grid by the county.

The bioreactor earns the county approximately $800,000 annually.

Not many people are excited about trash, but this isn’t the case for the board chairman of St. Clair County, Jeff Bohm. “How many landfills do you talk to that say they need more trash? It’s a good thing, because we’re producing tremendous amounts of energy,” Bohm commented.

The county has developed a patented technology that actually speeds up the decomposition process. Sewage is injected into the garbage, which causes it to breakdown at a quicker rate. The technology has been very successful, so much so, in fact, that the Michigan county has run into a peculiar problem. Due to the success of the technology, the county requires more biodegradable and organic garbage than it can produce. This is the reason that Ontario’s garbage is welcome.

St. Clair County is looking to hire Canadian company Enertec to help with its landfill gas energy making efforts.

In order to help them find more trash, the county is currently in the process of employing Enertec. They intend to pay the company US$0.50 for every 900 kilograms of trash that crosses the border from Canada. Enertec’s owner, Charles Dally, has the odd job of convincing Canadian businesses to give him their trash.

“There are potential cost savings for the customers.” Dally said. “I tell them what a great way to get rid of your residuals it is, trying to get a little more beneficial use out of it,” he explained. Many businesses may be interested in this opportunity because trash removal can be a huge expense for them. Businesses are often charged a significant amount by municipalities to remove a large volume of garbage.

Landfill rates are less expensive in Michigan than they are in Canada. According to a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality report, every year, approximately 17 percent of garbage dumped in the state’s landfills comes from their neighbor to the north.

Although not everyone in Michigan is happy to receive trash from Canada, there are certain aspects about the landfill gas to energy operation in St. Clair County that make it a win-win situation for everyone involved. The garbage decomposes faster, the landfill generates renewable energy that is added to the electricity grid, and everyone makes money.

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