Separate organic matter out of the waste stream and convert it to biogas
When food scraps and organic matter decompose in landfills, methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is created. If captured properly, methane can be used as a fuel source (known as biogas). Biogas is considered carbon neutral since, unlike natural gas, it does not add any new carbon to the atmosphere. Separating organic matter out of the waste stream and converting it to biogas lowers the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our waste, creates a new fuel source, and makes recycling easier.
The City has already started a food scraps collection program for neighbourhoods where yard trimmings are collected. These materials are currently composted. With more organic waste diversion, the City will explore opportunties to implement technolgies that produce biogas like gassifiers and anaerobic digesters.
NOTE: bartosz's idea "Implement a Biogas Generation Program using Dog Waste" has been merged with this one.
With well over 80 thousand dogs in the Vancouver area, it would be practical to put the 30 thousand pounds of dog waste per day, to good use. (rather than a landfill) Similar to biogas generators used in agriculture, a system in Vancouver could be used to produce clean and renewable heat and electricity.
NOTE: Green Options's idea "Use biomethane to run buses / city vehicles" has been merged with this one.
Collect and process biomethane to be used in diesel buses and other city vehicles (garbage trucks etc). It is being done in other cities that are challenging on the green front, such as Oslo (Norway).
NOTE: Noah's idea "Fuel garbage trucks with garbage" has been merged with this one.
Garbage trucks can now be equipped to use land-fill methane for fuel, and such are in use in California and Europe.
Please see these articles:
Landfill gas is a liability -- better to avoid producing it (ban organics from the landfill) than try to catch it after it's formed. As much as 90% of landfill gas escapes ("fugitive" emissions!). A safer process is to get methane from a controlled process dealing with carefully controlled materials. Landfill gas has toxic compounds coming from the stuff we put in our garbage. We should continue to capture as much gas as we can from the closed cells in our landfill, but commit to ending the practice of putting organic materials there. Go Vision for pushing Metro Vancouver to ban organics from disposal by 2015 as part of their waste plan!!!
If biogas or power generation has a prohibitive budget, Why not compost? Here;s a study comissioned by Vancouver's own Parks Board. vancouver.ca/parks/info/strategy/.../pdf/report_dogfeces_compost.pdf
Adam Hyslop commented
The burning of biogas (in this case from the decomposition of waste organic matter) is considered "carbon-neutral" because the CO2 released is equal to the CO2 absorbed and stored by the original plant matter. Unlike fossil fuels, where carbon that was stored for thousands of years is released into the atmosphere, burning biogas is simply recycling atmospheric carbon from recent years. Obviously not as ideal as sequestering the carbon permanently, but a step in the right direction.
Pradeep rightly points out that CO2 is a much weaker greenhouse gas than methane, so burning waste methane has positive climate change benefits while also providing a source of heat energy.
Pradeep K.Verma MBBS commented
It is not correct that carbon vanishes when you burn biogas, What makes more sense is that if methane is burnt down to CO2 its radiance or GHG effect would be reduced several fold ~ 27 times the CO2e that is what makes more sense that methane be burnt into less harmful or less warming producing chemical. The carbon atoms do not vanish just because we so wish upon them. Otherwise praying would be the most effective technique to combat global warming. Biogas as fuel is a halfbaked strategy anyway. Biofules have their own ecological footprint that is nasty. The ideal is to get away from our arsonist traits.
Tamara Shulman commented
Agreed that energy recovery is possible, but digestate needs to be composted afterwards to create a high quality end product that completes the nutrient cycle.