Tag Archives: methane to green energy biogas

Sustainable Packaging: Are we wasting valuable energy vilifying landfills?

Biogas is a renewable energy source that exerts a very small carbon footprint and has proven to be an extremely viable resource. The cause is indisputable and the effect holds the key to significantly advancing sustainability in plastic packaging. The cause is a process in which living organisms, microbes, breakdown organic matter in the absence of oxygen (anaerobically). The effect is an immensely valuable alternative energy resource. Although the term for what causes this process cannot be labeled on any plastic packaging or product in the State of California, our ability to design plastic applications to biodegrade in anaerobic environments is the catalyst for advancing our efforts in how we handle plastic waste. To achieve circularity, recouping end-of-life value is imperative and our energy needs are paramount. Today, our most inexpensive disposal method returns one of our greatest needs and it’s already the single most common waste stream for plastics. With our ever growing energy requirements, is it wise to continue to overlook this valuable resource?

Speaking of California, did you know that Orange County just added another landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) project, making it the third LFGTE facility in this immediate region? At a tune of $60 million, this highly efficient and strictly regulated facility is not only estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 53,000 tons annually, but it will also generate roughly 160,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity. Collectively, the three LFGTE operations in this one region alone produce approximately 380,000 MWh of electricity annually, enough to power some 56,000 Southern California homes.

Apple, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, BMW, General Motors, Kimberly-Clark, Mars, UPS, Pepsi and many others have harnessed this valuable resource as an important part of their competitive strategy. The US EPA and the Departments of Agriculture and Energy recognized directed biogas as an emerging technology in a December 2015 report, touting that it “offers the nation a cost-effective and profitable solution to reducing emissions, diverting waste streams, and producing renewable energy.”

Today in the United States over 85% of all municipal solid waste is disposed of into landfills that are already converting landfill gas to green energy! This energy is used to power homes, manufacturing, businesses, schools, and government facilities. These are also the same landfills that are being used to dispose of the vast majority (over 90%) of all plastics used. Think about this; what if all of the plastics being disposed of into landfills were waste-to-energy compliant and would be converted into green/clean energy? We would instantly solve the vast majority of our plastic waste problem and help solve some of our energy shortage problem, all without the need to subsidize billions of dollars.

It is irrefutable that we have the ability/technology to accelerate the biodegradation process of plastics. The question now becomes, where should this process take place? In the New Plastics Economy, the objective is to harness innovations that can scale across the system, to re-define what’s possible and create conditions for a new economy. It’s about deriving greater “end-of-life” value through the infrastructures we already have in place. Today, one of our highest priorities is alternative energy. With the vast majority of plastic waste entering anaerobic environments that control and convert biogas into clean energy, we should probably stop ignoring the elephant in the room.

For more information, please contact ENSO Plastics.

Landfill Biodegradable Products engage in Carbon Negative Activity


The phrase carbon negative activity can have many interpretations that I feel needs clarification.  Carbon is sequestered in plastic as we all know, but when the plastic is biodegradable, the off gassing of methane (comprised of C02 and Methane) from the biodegradation process is combustible.  If this bio-gas is utilized in methane to energy generators, the result is considered a “green” source of energy.  However, carbon is still emitted from the process, the benefit is that we used energy from bio-gas instead of using energy from say…coal.  Utilizing methane from a landfill is only part of a possible process of creating a carbon negative cycle.  There’s a major running debate right now as to the carbon positivity/negativity of landfill biogas generation.  The back-to-back papers at the SPC conference last Spring in San Diego by Adam Gendell and Mort Barlaz spoke to two sides of this issue.  As more data flows in from many different projects currently underway, we will have a more definitive understanding of how to apply it to carbon life-cycle analysis, in the ultimate goal of realizing carbon negativity!

In the hopefully not so distant future, we will have plastic that has come from renewable sources that are not land-crop depended, but will still utilize carbon available in our atmosphere, to help in the carbon sequestering process.  ONLY when carbon is being pulled out of the atmosphere, and less carbon is being put back into it (by engaging activities like methane to energy), can someone be truly carbon negative.  Having an ENSO biodegradable plastic is part of the whole picture that is entirely up to progressive sourcing of material, and responsible end of life process.

Thank you,

Del Andrus