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Drawing power from junk

AFP
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A Philippine village generates electricity from landfill and thereby checks global warming!

Teresita Mabignay does her ironing using free electricity on the slope of a garbage dump, an unlikely beneficiary of efforts to turn the Philippines' growing rubbish problems into a clean-energy windfall.

Mabignay lives at the base of one of Manila's largest landfills, which was the first in the country to have its methane gas converted into power as part of a United Nations' programme aimed at tackling climate change.

How does it work?

Decomposing rubbish produces methane, which is one of the greenhouse gases that scientists blame for global warming, and turning it into electricity saves it from rising up into the atmosphere while reducing the need to burn fossil fuels.

The methane is captured with pipes that are dug into the landfill, similar to wells that extract gas from under the ground or ocean. Methane is then sucked down to a power station at the bottom of the dumpsite and pumped into generators to make electricity.

For the past few years Mabignay and other housewives from the slum community at the bottom of the Payatas landfill have been given free access to the power at a hall built at the dumpsite.

The company behind the project, Pangea Green Energy Philippines, could afford to be generous with its electricity as it was earning hundreds of thousands dollars to capture and convert the gas.

Under the UN programme, industrialised countries can meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments to cut greenhouse gas output by funding projects that reduce emissions in developing nations such as the Philippines.

Pangea this month expanded capacity from 200 kilowatts to one megawatt, and began selling directly onto Manila's electricity grid. Previously the electricity generated at Payatas had just been used to power operations at the landfill and for the nearby slum communities via the ironing project and neighbourhood street lights.

Encouraging waste?

The amount of greenhouse gases that are now being saved at Payatas is equivalent to taking 18,000 cars off Manila's roads, according to Fernan Campos.

She said the project had a host of other environmental benefits, including less direct air pollution for people living close by. The extracted methane gas could also no longer contaminate the water system.

Nevertheless, Greenpeace and some other environment groups oppose waste-to-energy projects, arguing that they create a financial incentive for more rubbish to be dumped.

"The only way to address the issue of methane generation from waste is to stop the rubbish going to the landfill in the first place," a Greenpeace representative said.AFP


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