Did you know that every day’s garbage can be a source for green energy? The natural gas generated from landfills is used to fuel vehicles and power the electric grid, decreasing our dependency on foreign oil.

“Landfill gas is a resource the waste and recycling industry is proud to reliably provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Sharon H. Kneiss, president and CEO of the National Waste & Recycling Association. “It’s renewable energy produced in America.”

What is the secret to it?

Today’s modern landfillsHigh-tech facilities that are designed to protect the environment and human health.

Gas is formed when trash, such as coffee grinds, grass clippings, and banana peels, gets buried underneath a layer soil in a landfill. This gas is collected by landfill operators using a vacuum system to collect it from the collection wells. The gas is then piped through a compression unit and filtering unit. This prepares it for use by other power plants.

How much energy can be generated?

The U.S. Department of Energy says that over 5 percent of America’s energy comes from waste-based sources. And there is still plenty of growth. In March 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that 645 sites had landfill-gas-to-energy programs (in every state except Hawaii and Wyoming). Additional 440 landfills have been identified by the EPA as potential expansion candidates.

Landfill operators have begun to create energy beyond just gas by putting solar panels on their landfills and windmills. The generated power can be used for electricity generation in local communities.

Stewards of land

Today, a landfill was designed from the beginning to protect the environment as well as public health. It provides many benefits, even after it closes. When a landfill exceeds its capacity, it can be closed. A cap is made of clay or synthetic material to keep water out. To support plant growth, a drainage layer, topsoil and a protective soil covering are added.

These spaces are turned into parks, golf course, wildlife refuges, and other places that the whole community can enjoy.

Learn more about the many benefits of landfills by visiting http://beginwiththebin.org/innovation/landfill-gas-renewable-energy.