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Louisville Trash Becomes Fuel For Garbage Trucks

Waste Management's new renewable natural gas facility at the outer loop landfill south of downtown on June 5, 2018.
Waste Management's new renewable natural gas facility at the outer loop landfill south of downtown on June 5, 2018.

Twenty years’ worth of Louisville garbage has found a new purpose in the city’s first renewable natural gas facility.

Waste Management unveiled its latest plant at the outer loop landfill south of downtown on Tuesday.

The $30 million plant extracts harmful greenhouse gases from the landfill and uses them to make natural gas.

That gas is fed into the Texas pipeline and will be used to power waste management garbage trucks as far away as California, said Tim Wells, Waste Management area vice president.

“This new facility will produce enough pipeline quality natural gas each day to fuel 800 of our [compressed natural gas] collection vehicles across North America, or power up to 14,000 homes a day,” Wells said.

He said it's the first facility of its kind in Louisville and the third for Waste Management.

How It Works

The plant pulls methane and other gases from waste discarded up to 20 years ago. It pulls the gas from ventilated wells on the landfill, said John Ficula, Waste Management senior turbine operator.

Machines then refine the gas from about 50 percent methane to about 98 percent methane, which can be used as renewable natural gas, he said.

“What we do is we take the nastiest gas that you could possibly get, we clean it up, we take all the nasties (sic) out and we make pipeline quality gas,” Ficula.

The benefits to the environment are twofold, Ficula said.

First, the plant removes methane gas from the landfill that would otherwise get flared off or float up into the atmosphere.

Second, the gas is used to help power garbage trucks that run on compressed natural gas rather than diesel, offsetting the need to burn more fossil fuels.

Waste Management already has about 80 garbage trucks in Louisville that run on compressed natural gas.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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