Drugs and Trash: Energy Alternatives for the Midwest

A couple of interesting developments on the alternative energy front in the Midwest…

First, did you know that Michigan is a final destination for garbage from Canada and other US states? Me, either, but, according to MLive.com, the state’s political leaders now see opportunity in those truckloads of trash:

All that trash coming in from Canada that Michigan politicians have spent years trying to restrain is starting to look like pure gold as a source of alternative energy, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday…

“Something that has been a terrible negative for Michigan certainly has the potential of being something we can convert to energy and a positive for our state,” she said during a news conference. “We in Michigan are set to be able to capture our resources and our waste.”

Granholm has just returned from a trip to Sweden, where she discovered that the country “…converts almost all its waste to help generate energy that it uses to heat its homes and power its cars.” Granholm’s proposing a summit with Sweden to get it’s assistance in not only developing garbage power, but also forest products, wind and water as energy sources.

The article makes it sound like Michigan is focused primarily on landfill gas as the means of converting trash to energy — is it just me, or does that not seem like the best approach for garbage that hasn’t yet been deposited in a landfill. Wouldn’t burning it, in many cases, be preferable?

While burning trash may be questionable, apparently that’s not the case for expired prescription medications. According to CNN Money, companies like Illinois-based Stericycle and New Jersey’s Covanta are in the business of turning old drugs into energy, and a Milwaukee-based firm, Capital Returns, plays middleman by collecting these drugs and distributing them to the energy companies. CR president Larry Hruska claims “We’ve got to guarantee that the product we’re disposing does not end up in a landfill or contaminate the water table… The best way of doing that is putting it into a facility and burning it.”

Most of us have read about drug compounds showing up in drinking water, and possibly even affecting wildlife. I’ve got to wonder about emissions here, also: couldn’t drugs give off some particularly nasty ones? I’m asking… this is a pretty new idea to me.

Blogging buddy Chris Baskind at Lighter Footstep has also written about this one

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