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How the Greenest Cities in the World Clean Up Their Trash

More trash means more money wasted and more resources used up. Here are a few ways to clean up a waste stream.


The greenest city in the world, depending on who you ask, might be San Francisco, California, or Curitiba, Brazil, or Copenhagen, Denmark, or Vancouver, Canada. These cities and others like them have freed their citizens from car-dependency, switched to clean energy, and made room for green spaces that let everyone breath a little freer. But one key function they’ve also worked hard on? How to deal with their trash.

It’s convenient to think of the trash can as a black hole into which scraps and discards and mistakes disappear. But these cities know better. Producing more trash means wasting more money and using up more resources that could be put to better use. Here are a few lessons from some of the greenest cities in the world on taking out the trash.

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How Manure-to-Energy Projects Make the Best Out of a Stinky Situation

Waste-to-energy projects make the best of the world we have. Manure becomes electricity. Steel gas becomes jet fuel. Garbage power people's homes.


In Vermont, seven dairy farms are transforming millions of gallons of cow manure into electricity through the Cow Power project. Over the past seven years, these farms have installed anaerobic digesters on their farms and shoveled in their cows’ waste. The digesters separate methane natural gas, out of the manure, using it to power an electricity-generating turbine.

Waste-to-energy projects like this one are making the best of a bad situation by reusing the dregs of industrial processes that would otherwise drift into the environment. Just as manure can become electricity, gases pouring out of steel plants can become jet fuel. Plain old waste—the stream of garbage that would normally end up in a landfill—can also power people’s homes. As long as there’s no other option for disposing this excess material, waste-to-energy projects can make sense. But they also depend on the continued existence of large-scale, polluting industries and can do more harm than good.

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