An artist’s conception of a trash-destroying machine and/or a still from the movie “Wall-E.”
Here’s a solution to the energy crisis Americans are sure to love: A company called Geoplasma is building a plant in Florida that will vaporize garbage with a plasma torch, turning 1,500 tons of waste into 60 megawatts of the good stuff. It may not be as clean as solar, but hey, America is the Saudi Arabia of trash.
Every year 130 million tons of America’s trash ends up in landfills. Together the dumps emit more of the greenhouse gas methane than any other human-related source. But thanks to plasma technology, one city’s rotting rubbish will soon release far less methane—and provide power for 50,000 homes—because of an innovation in plasma technology backed by Atlanta-based Geoplasma.
Engineers have developed an efficient torch for blasting garbage with a stream of superheated gas, known as plasma. When trash is dropped into a chamber and heated to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, its organic components—food, fluids, paper—vaporize into a hot, pressurized gas, which turns a turbine to generate electricity. Steam, a by-product, can generate more. Inorganic refuse such as metals condense at the bottom and can be used in roadbeds and heavy construction.