The Money Pit: Denton's Landfill Turns Trash to Cash

Whoever coined the phrase, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," could very easily have been talking about Denton's Landfill according to renewable fuel specialist Jason Smith.

"Industry wide you're talking billions of dollars,"  said Smith, with DTE Energy,  the company responsible for helping Denton capture methane gas from the decomposing garbage of the city's landfill.

Fuel from garbage? 

It's true. As the trash we throw away decomposes it's devoured by bacteria, "eating your child's dirty diaper, eating your leftover or thrown out school lunch," said Smith.

In return the bacteria produces methane gas that is pumped out of trash heaps and converted into electricity. 

Denton's Mayor, Mark Burroughs, describes it this way, "It is by definition a renewable resource." 

It may best be defined as a cash cow. 

Denton earns royalties from the collection of the gas, its conversion to electricity and the sale of that electricity to customers. Because it's enviornmentally sound, the state will give the city some credits for it's stewardship of the enviornment,

Burroughs said the landfill entitles Denton to 12 percent of the revenue stream. That is 12 percent of an unlimited resource which will only grow, can you say cha-ching? 

Denton's landfill is moving at a feverish pace to create more cells able to capture methane and while the program is only about a month old, it's caught the worlds attention. 

A news crew from TV Toyko interviewed Smith and Burroughs Tuesday, taking the message of renewable fuels to the far east.

So if the trash to cash process is all upside, why isn't every city doing it? 

Denton is in the unique position of owning it's own landfill and electric utility.  It takes millions in investment, which began four years ago for Denton city leaders who laid the ground work for the program.  Ultimately the city could realize billions from the investment.

If you let Smith tell it, trash just isn't sexy. It's not like oil or windmills and landfills have basically become a dirty word in an enviornmentally conscious society.   The truth according to experts, is that harvesting methane actually makes landfills safer and air cleaner as methane is harmful to air quality.

The city  is already expanding the project and are researching ways to extract methane gas from its waste water treatment facility. With a 12 percent return on revenue, any decision to not invest in renewable fuels would truly be like throwing money away.

Contact Us