Denton landfill moves toward sustainability

The Denton landfill, located on South Mayhill Road, has moved forward with a plan to implement new technologies to decrease the space Denton’s waste takes up. An eco-friendly landfill, Denton’s landfill has been working since 2008 to improve quality of life by using the waste to their advantage.

A long-term process, the project began by partnering with UT Arlington, specifically Professor Sahadat Hossain and his team of students.

“I am excited to start this new project,” Hossain said. “Denton is the perfect place to break the ground for landfill mining.”

As a civil engineer at the UTA Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability, Professor Hossain is working with the City of Denton to produce more energy by using closed landfill cells. This technique involves using the already buried waste, excavating it and processing the waste once again. It results in a decrease in buried waste and hazardous elements that were accidentally buried. It will also allow the landfill soil to aerate, decreasing soil compartment and enrichment of the soil by the production of methane. Then comes decomposition. 

After the process is complete, all that is left is the compost which can be thrown out. But another main component of landfill mining is its usage in energy production, and that is the technique’s most attractive aspect.

Combustible fraction will allow for the generation of power but at the moment, Professor Hossain and Denton are working on using landfill mining to figure out how they can speed up the degradation process. Supported by a three-year Denton grant, amounting to about $399,806, the city intends to change the preconception most have about landfill. And they’re wanting to disseminate the practice.

“We are hoping to expand this to other cities where new cell landfills could reduce space being taken up,”Hossain said.

Dump trucks back their loads into the waste landfill in Denton. This is one of five cells within the 700-acre footprint at the Denton Landfill where the team is preparing to mine methane. Hannah Breland
Dump trucks back their loads into the waste landfill in Denton. This is one of five cells within the 700-acre footprint at the Denton Landfill where the team is preparing to mine methane. Hannah Breland

Vance Kemler, the manager of solid waste operations in Denton, said that this should show environmental officials that landfills are not just costly, but can be an asset to each city.

A novelty for Denton as well as for Texas and the country. The landfill mining project will be the first for Texas and the first landfill mining project toward sustainability in the country. The project has attracted numerous officials and has made the sustainability of waste an issue.

The Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability at UTA, includes board members nationwide, from Ghana to Austria, including Kemler.

“It feels good to contribute to such a project that is becoming increasingly important in our day and age,” said Kemler.

Kemler said that this will decrease trash and prevent the need to expand or provide a new landfill for the city of Denton.

This reclamation process is relatively cheap when compared to how much it would cost to provide new land. The Environmental Protection Agency has written that the reclamation cost is compensated by the sale of recovered materials “such as recyclables, soil, and waste, which can be burned as fuel.”

But there are some drawbacks to using this technology — gasses could potentially be released from decomposing waste and hazardous material could be unearthed which would be costly to properly dispose.  

Also excavation work can cause adjacent landfill areas to sink or collapse and the equipment used has a shorter life-span, as they may wear down quickly, but that hasn’t stopped the U.S. from trying to reclaim land since 1980. The technology has recently taken off due to omnipresent waste and limited space.

Hossain has found that the waste in Denton is in good shape and can be used as long as it is decomposed first. But right now the goal is to figure out through mining samples, what category the waste fits into: waste, possible energy usage or recyclable. 

“Decomposition will be done in 15 years if we add water to it,” said Hossain. And Kemler added, “In the end, Denton will be for the better.”

Featured Image: A worker uses heavy machinery to transport recyclables, brought in by the public, to a conveyor belt for sorting at the Denton Landfill. Hannah Breland

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