As far as Dr. Sahadat Hossain is concerned, one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure.
“We’re taking a problem and converting it into an asset,” said Hossain, a professor of civil engineering at UT-Arlington.
He and his students are working with the Denton city landfill on a groundbreaking project that could help communities everywhere figure out what to do with their future garbage – and create new kickbacks in the process.
“At one point, we’re going to run out of landfill space,” said Sahadat. “So how can we design and operate the system in a way that it will be sustainable?”
First, they’re testing new methods to speed up the rate at which garbage in the landfill decomposes.
Not only does that create more space for trash, it also creates more methane gas which the landfill traps and converts to electricity.
“The city of Denton right now generates enough gas to supply electricity to almost 3,000 households,” said Sahadat. “With this, they have the potential to supply electricity to 5,000 households.”
They’re also preparing to go digging right through the heart of a 25-year-old mound at the landfill.
“There wasn’t much recycling going on back then,” said Vance Kemler, General Manager of Denton Solid Waste & Recycling Services. “And sampling what’s in that area, there are a lot of materials that can be recycled.”
He says removing those recyclable materials will create a lot more room for new trash – and prevent them from having to expand or create a new landfill.
“We’re taking a different approach to what we want to do in this landfill,” said Kemler.
Landfill mining, as it’s called, is a relatively new concept that is beginning to pick up steam in the United States. The Denton city landfill will be the first to do it in Texas – and one of the first in the world to use it for sustainability purposes.
The project is already gaining attention from around the world. This week, the landfill is hosting students and landfill professionals from 27 different countries, who are curious to learn more.
“I’m quite interested to see how it’s operated and how the daily routine happens,” said Sarah Syed, a PhD student from Egypt visiting the landfill. “I’ve gained a lot of knowledge.”
It’s real life trash talk Hossain hopes can change the world.
“We are leading the way,” said Hossain.
The landfill is waiting for final state approval to begin the landfill mining process. They hope to start digging within the next 12 months.