warm to the touch?
Graphic: Australian Energy News
Touch the garbage and you will feel the heat generated by
millions of fast-replicating
microbes as they gorge themselves
on the organic matter contained in your
trash. Spores of bacteria
and microscopic fungi are out there perpetually
blowing around in
a dormant state, but once they land in a nice, dank pile
garbage, whether it be an outdoor compost heap or simply a kitchen
trash can, they immediately go to work colonizing the stuff.
you might say, is their medium. And as their numbers
inexorably grow, so
does the collective body heat. The
responsible party here is aerobic bacteria,
so as long as the
refuse heap in question is well ventilated, it's going
warmth. Compost piles can reach temperatures as high as
degrees F, at which point the bacteria start to bake to death
in their own
metabolic stew, and the temperature levels off.
garbage heat can be successfully harnessed
groovy Whole Earthers have done experiments in which they've
by coursing pipes through active compost piles
unfortunately the BTU output is not consequential enough
to turn heads at
Texaco. Garbage does not contain as much
heat energy as coal, though. It takes
one ton (2,000 pounds) of
garbage to equal the heat energy in 500 pounds of
what about huge urban landfills?
"Landfills, being oxygenless environments,
don't produce heat
but they do produce awful-smelling sulfides and steady
of methane that can be collected and sold to power companies,"
says Texas garbage consultant Bill Carter.
"In some places, the
methane builds up so fast that wells
must be drilled deep into the landfill
to keep it from blowing up."