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Buried Treasure

Civil engineers devise sustainable solution to manage landfills

Sahadat Hossain

As the world's population increases, so does the amount of trash generated. Meanwhile, landfills are approaching capacity.

A UTA team led by Civil Engineering Professor Sahadat Hossain, director of the UTA Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability, and the City of Denton are developing a bold solution-creating the first-ever landfill-mining project that's part of a sustainable waste management system.

"The idea behind landfill mining is to take out what won't break down in the landfill and speed up the degradation of what's left," Dr. Hossain says. "That allows different cells within the landfill to be used again and again."

UTA installed a high-tech sensor system at the Denton landfill that helps boost the production of methane gas. The landfill now generates enough electricity to power 3,000 homes.

In January, Hossain discussed some of his team's findings at a training program of the International Solid Waste Association held on the UTA campus that drew more than 50 city representatives, professors, environmental experts, and students from 25 countries.

Also, in addition to Denton, representatives from Irving and Grand Prairie have joined the Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability's advisory board, as have researchers and officials from Brazil, Japan, Portugal, Thailand, Turkey, Serbia, and the United Kingdom.

"Those landfill and environmental officials are discovering that landfills are resources, not just expenses," says Vance Kemler, Denton's general manager of solid waste operations.

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