How It Works: Bioreactor Landfills
How It Works: Bioreactor Landfills
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How It Works: Bioreactor Landfills
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Bioreactors are the new way of thinking when it comes to solid waste landfill technology and operation. These landfills operate similar to municipal wastewater treatment plants by biodegrading organic waste in a controlled way.

Bioreactors are the new way of thinking when it comes to solid waste landfill technology and operation. With the added environmental benefits, it appears bioreactor technology may be here to stay.

A bioreactor landfill operates similarly to modern municipal wastewater treatment plants in that it biodegrades organic waste in a controlled way. However, the bioreactor method of landfill operation is a global shift in traditional philosophy, which is to design, build and operate facilities that encapsulate the waste in a dry tomb.

In bioreactor landfills, rather than keep the waste dry, water is added to the waste and a system of piping and conveyance infrastructure is built in. The water accelerates the biodegradation process and allows more complete decomposition. The waste in a bioreactor landfill fully degrades in approximately 10 years — not 100 years or more like a typical dry tomb landfill — and generates landfill gas faster for use as fuel.

“Accelerated biodegradation results in airspace gains, which extends the life of a bioreactor landfill and environmentally stabilizes the waste mass,” says Chris Snider, Burns & McDonnell associate environmental engineer. “The bioreactor operational method will also yield higher landfill gas flows, which enable more electricity to be generated, yielding a greater return on investment.”

A shift to using bioreactor landfills creates an opportunity to successfully generate energy in an environmentally responsible manner that reduces the potential for future pollution, offsets the use of fossil fuel sources contributing to greenhouse gas, and creates economic incentive for industries to locate plants and jobs adjacent to bioreactor landfills.

For more information, contact Chris Snider, 816-822-3534.

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