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Science and the Environment

Greenhouse Concept: Turning Trash into Food in Springfield

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http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/greenhouse-concept-turning-trash-food-springfield_59747.mp3

The City of Springfield’s Department of Environmental Services is exploring the possibility of a $2.5 million community greenhouse. This greenhouse would be unique to Missouri because it would be kept warm in the winter from renewable energy provided by trash. KSMU’s Shannon Bowers has this report.

Springfield community members, organizations, and businesses are brainstorming about how to literally turn Springfield's trash into an organic produce treasure. Mayor Bob Stephens says it's a very real possibility.

“Right now the landfill generates methane gas. City Utilities captures that and converts it into electricity. But that conversion process creates a lot of heat. That is just dissipated into the atmosphere. We want to capture that heat and use it to heat green houses in order to grow local food and enhance our local food supply here,” said Mayor Stephens.

The Nobel Hill Landfill Renewable Energy Center partners with the city to harness electricity though a state-of-the-art generator. Since 2006, the waste bi-product known as methane gas provides 3.2 megawatts of electricity to 2000 customers. Sustainability Officer for the city, Barbra Lucks, says this is a perfect way to maximize efficiency of that generator.

“The concept is sound. There are facilities like this up and running successfully so we know that will work. When we did the market study we know that there is a demand for the product so we feel like that is safe. So I think the primary stumping block is going to be finding the funding,” said Lucks.

If the city secures finding for the greenhouse, it would be considered a pilot project for all landfills. City officials say this is a project of the city’s Integrated Solid Waste System, an enterprise fund, which does not use tax money.

This 300,000 square-foot garden concept, powered by what would otherwise just be considered waste, is something city officials say could put Springfield on the map as a sustainable food capitol.

To learn more about the greenhouse or about the waste generator, go to our website at KSMU.org.

For KSMU News I’m Shannon Bowers