April 17, 2006 7:38 AM PDT

Getting gas from trash

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A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Shane Eten was once a manufacturing director at a high-end Linux server maker. Now he wants to be a garbage collector.

A graduate student at Babson College's School of Business, Eten has developed a business plan around large-scale composting of organic solid waste. His company, Feed Resource Recovery, is one of 10 to be chosen this year for MIT's Ignite Clean Energy competition for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The technology behind Feed Resource Recovery is anaerobic digestion, the breakdown of organic material by bacteria, creating methane in the process. Industrial-scale digesters, which treat the waste, are already in commercial use, including on farms where cow manure generates "biogas."

Eten envisions using the same equipment in urban settings: His plans call for collecting organic waste from supermarkets and processing it at a nearby site. The trash can be any compostable material, including food waste and paper products

"I have never really have been an environmentalist. I always just liked new technology," Eten said. "I see this as bringing new technology to market."

The by-products of a digester would be methane and two kinds of fertilizer--a liquid fertilizer and solid compost. Eten envisions selling each of the products wholesale.

Eten said he was inspired by William McDonough, a designer who co-authored a book called "Cradle to Cradle," which argues that a product lifecycle can be designed with little, or even beneficial, impact on the natural environment.

The Feed Resource Recovery is more feasible today than it would have been a few years ago because stores are more willing to separate their trash. The company is still looking for initial funding.

"The great part about this is that the market is so big because there is so much trash. And nobody knows where it goes," said Eten.

 

Correction: Due to an editing error, this article misstated the by-products of the composting process. The process will generate methane, as well as a liquid fertilizer and solid compost.

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20 comments

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This is good but....
I rather the Delorean that can move through time
Posted by jmcbean (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
if you would
Pick me up a Mr. Fusion next time you visit the future.
Posted by (402 comments )
Link Flag
This is good but....
I rather the Delorean that can move through time
Posted by jmcbean (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
if you would
Pick me up a Mr. Fusion next time you visit the future.
Posted by (402 comments )
Link Flag
San Francisco
Actually, on ABC Evening News this week they had a story on how this is already being done in SF. There is a pilot program that's been successful enough that they are expanding it. They collect scrap trash from restaurants and doggy poop now. There was big thing about how much doggy poop there is in the city and this was a good use for it.
Posted by kxmmxk (320 comments )
Reply Link Flag
San Francisco
Actually, on ABC Evening News this week they had a story on how this is already being done in SF. There is a pilot program that's been successful enough that they are expanding it. They collect scrap trash from restaurants and doggy poop now. There was big thing about how much doggy poop there is in the city and this was a good use for it.
Posted by kxmmxk (320 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The next step is to collect waste using methane powered vehicles
I can imagine a time when thermophilic digesters replace almost every landfill.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mining landfills
Think about how much recoverable material is already buried in landfills and realize that the day is approaching when existing landfills will be mined for the resources they contain. Seperating out the still preserved organic matter and "digesting" it for energy will be only one part of that process.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
The next step is to collect waste using methane powered vehicles
I can imagine a time when thermophilic digesters replace almost every landfill.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mining landfills
Think about how much recoverable material is already buried in landfills and realize that the day is approaching when existing landfills will be mined for the resources they contain. Seperating out the still preserved organic matter and "digesting" it for energy will be only one part of that process.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
I can't see why the methane gas in existing
sources isn't used. Just go to your nearest sewer vent pipe and fill-er-up. A pump on the methane powered vehicle woul suck out the sewwer gas and away you'd go. I can invision thousands of public vent pipes all over the urban cities. ;)
Posted by wtortorici (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I can't see why the methane gas in existing
sources isn't used. Just go to your nearest sewer vent pipe and fill-er-up. A pump on the methane powered vehicle woul suck out the sewwer gas and away you'd go. I can invision thousands of public vent pipes all over the urban cities. ;)
Posted by wtortorici (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Metnane Gas Use
Methane gas is simply a by product of organic degeneration. As stated, the problem of large accumulation of "raw" materials is a major problem.

As land fills have grown, operators have been forced to vent them, lest they explode.

Ideas advance mankind, let their ideas roll.
Posted by georgev (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Metnane Gas Use
Methane gas is simply a by product of organic degeneration. As stated, the problem of large accumulation of "raw" materials is a major problem.

As land fills have grown, operators have been forced to vent them, lest they explode.

Ideas advance mankind, let their ideas roll.
Posted by georgev (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Methane Gas
I had an idea for extracting methane from waste.
Why not create specific containers that the waste is put into. These could then be stacked and managed.
Maybe the containers could be the size of a rubbish collection truck. So, in the morning the truck would pick up a container. Do its rounds and then at the end of the day drop off the container. No mess, no fuss and everything managed.

Once they drop below a certain level of production you can empty them, recover what is valid and potentially process again in a more efficient way.
By having fixed sized containers the issue of tapping off and space becomes less acute.
The methane would be tapped from the same point in the container allowing easy collection and potentially fed directly into a generator for electricity.
Overall space requirements are reduced as when containers are redundant they can be removed and replaced without affecting the overall stack.

Once the waste has been composted it will take up less space and so reduce the storage requirements.

The only issues are:
Defining the standard and getting it used  need municipal collections to support it.
Set up costs for containers and infrastructure at composting site.

So, other than millions and a change of world order I think this would be a winner&
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Methane
Sixty years ago waste treatment plants captured the methane and used it as fuel for engines that powered pumps and could even generate eletricty. I suspect that few do this now. A local landfill that was closed was piped to a pair of generators for several years. The pipe is stil there and possibly the engines. Outside exhaust pipes have been removed. Probable cause is that volume of available fuel gas is now too low to even idle the plant. Any setup like this would be labor intensive. That spells as really big costs for seven days times three shifts.

This county burns two train loads of waste at an upcounty power station. Energy is sold from the conversion.

If there is a profit I would be surprised. Dumping costs are nearly a hundred bucks a ton. At the dump is was around twenty. Progress isn't cheap. More energey is extracted by incenderation than if it were fermented into methane, less mass after the burning than if made into methane. A lot of the costs is from disposal of ashes.
Posted by bigduke (78 comments )
Link Flag
Methane Gas
I had an idea for extracting methane from waste.
Why not create specific containers that the waste is put into. These could then be stacked and managed.
Maybe the containers could be the size of a rubbish collection truck. So, in the morning the truck would pick up a container. Do its rounds and then at the end of the day drop off the container. No mess, no fuss and everything managed.

Once they drop below a certain level of production you can empty them, recover what is valid and potentially process again in a more efficient way.
By having fixed sized containers the issue of tapping off and space becomes less acute.
The methane would be tapped from the same point in the container allowing easy collection and potentially fed directly into a generator for electricity.
Overall space requirements are reduced as when containers are redundant they can be removed and replaced without affecting the overall stack.

Once the waste has been composted it will take up less space and so reduce the storage requirements.

The only issues are:
Defining the standard and getting it used  need municipal collections to support it.
Set up costs for containers and infrastructure at composting site.

So, other than millions and a change of world order I think this would be a winner&
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Methane
Sixty years ago waste treatment plants captured the methane and used it as fuel for engines that powered pumps and could even generate eletricty. I suspect that few do this now. A local landfill that was closed was piped to a pair of generators for several years. The pipe is stil there and possibly the engines. Outside exhaust pipes have been removed. Probable cause is that volume of available fuel gas is now too low to even idle the plant. Any setup like this would be labor intensive. That spells as really big costs for seven days times three shifts.

This county burns two train loads of waste at an upcounty power station. Energy is sold from the conversion.

If there is a profit I would be surprised. Dumping costs are nearly a hundred bucks a ton. At the dump is was around twenty. Progress isn't cheap. More energey is extracted by incenderation than if it were fermented into methane, less mass after the burning than if made into methane. A lot of the costs is from disposal of ashes.
Posted by bigduke (78 comments )
Link Flag
Mr. Fusion
Reminds me of Doc's car in Back to the Future...
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mr. Fusion
Reminds me of Doc's car in Back to the Future...
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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