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Waste and recycling facility hoping to invest in 'Smart Landfill System' technologies that would revolutionize pollution management: 'It could change the entire industry'

"A landfill is a living, breathing entity."

"A landfill is a living, breathing entity."

Photo Credit: iStock

A California community is hoping to invest in a Smart Landfill System that could drastically transform garbage infrastructure, reducing methane pollution in the process.

Tom Koutroulis, who serves as the director of Orange County Waste & Recycling, submitted a grant request to the Environmental Protection Agency seeking $25 million to change up its landfill maintenance with new technology, according to the Orange County Register.

The system would track methane pollution from OC's landfills using sensors and low-flying drones to obtain real-time data about the extent of dangerous planet-heating pollution. 

"A landfill is a living, breathing entity. It can get upset. It can get a fever, burp; it can go sideways on you," Koutroulis explained. "That's why you have to constantly monitor everything — flow rates, temperature, moisture content; all these points of data — to determine the overall health and efficiency of the landfill gas collection systems."

Methane accounts for between 18% and 21% of global greenhouse gas pollution every year but has also been estimated to have caused around 30% of the total planetary warming since the Industrial Revolution, according to Statista. The EPA estimates that about 14.4% of all methane pollution in the United States came from landfills in 2022, and another study showed that over half of major cities' methane pollution can come from landfills, according to Reuters.

"What we're proposing would be a disruptor," Koutroulis said. "If they give us this money, our system will probably be the first of its kind used at this scale. It could change the entire industry."

That change would be welcome, and it would help curb methane pollution alongside numerous other promising developments around the world. Scientists have used methane-eating microbes, climate-friendly farming methods, and methane defusers to help reduce the harmful effects of methane in the atmosphere. Individually, people can look to find plastic alternatives and ditch single-use water bottles

"If the end result is tougher standards, and it helps set standards for the rest of the nation, then fine," Koutroulis said. "All of the greenhouse gasses coming out [of landfills] are problematic. The question, the issue really, is how we control them."

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