Current research demonstrates that refuse services play a more significant role in the implementation of legitimate environmental problems. Fuel options derived from natural gas provide a comparable alternative to diesel.
By Tim Thornton

No doubt, appropriate waste disposal is critical to sanitary living conditions. However, while nearly every one of us knows what day “garbage day” is in our neighborhood, most of us do not give a second thought to what happens once our garbage gets picked up.

The U.S. contains more than 1,000 landfills. Not only do these landfills smell, but they also exude a multitude of potentially dangerous gases that travel through soil, fill the outdoor air and build on nearby buildings. A byproduct of the decomposition of waste, landfill gas (LFG) is made up of methane, carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—all potential hazards to our health.

Data from the International Energy Agency indicates that global waste results in more than 60 metric tons of methane. As a major component of renewable natural gas, methane, as it turns out, is also a critical resource for the heavy-duty trucking industry. Even asfederal and state governments create legislation that demands an immediate reduction in emissions, a process known as electrification offers a promising solution, turning trash into the treasure of renewable natural gas for the trucking industry.

Moving Forward with Renewable Energy
Truck manufacturers, fleet managers and operators quite literally keep the nation moving. Our services have proven to be a linchpin in times of product shortages, mass resignations and government mandates. We are keeping our trucks running, which demands a lot of us. Many fleet owners are on board with going green; however, limited supplies of affordable natural gas have presented a dilemma.Waste disposal requires the use of many resources. The most important of these resources—fuel—can contribute negatively to climate change. We can observe this by looking at refuse trucks as we reconsider the landfill.


What If Landfills Could Actually Play a Positive Role, Turning Waste Into Fuel?
No doubt, refuse vehicles have a dirty job to do. They provide an essential service, removing garbage from our homes and communities. While valuing the benefits of this modern-day convenience, the trucking industry must also take responsibility by considering two fundamental problems that go hand-in-hand with refuse disposal:
1. Gases produced by landfills (of which methane and carbon dioxide make up 90 to 98 percent of landfill gas with the remaining 2 to 10 percent including nitrogen, oxygen, ammonia, sulfides, hydrogen and various other gases, are produced when bacteria break down organic waste)
2. Gases as a byproduct of gasoline and diesel engines

Current data indicates that municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills accounted for more than 15 percent of methane emissions; however, thankfully, solutions do exist that help address both problems. Landfill gas can be cleaned and repurposed. Existing technology affords us the capacity to convert landfill gases into fuel for refuse trucks, thereby reducing toxic waste while fueling fleets that keep America clean.

Research into refuse disposal in recent years has led to progressive and innovative strategies, paving the way for meaningful change across the industry. More and more companies are embracing new approaches to both alternative fuels and more sustainable options for waste disposal. Let’s look more closely at the processes involved in the innovative and sustainable solutions increasingly available to those in the trucking industry, particularly refuse trucks.


Municipal Waste, Methane and Reduced Emissions
The EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) supports the repurposing of landfill gases into fuel. Though participation is voluntary, LMOP oversees a database of 2,600 MSW landfills now taking part in the initiative.
According to the EPA, an MSW landfill can create 3,200 GGEs (gasoline gallon equivalent) of compressed natural gas in a single day.
So, how does the conversion of transforming landfill gases (LFG) to fuel work?:
1. First, an underground network of pipes gathers the noxious emissions. Then, during the first phase of treatment, the LFG passes through a knockout pot, a filter, a blower and a flare. This first phase helps get rid of moisture.
2. Next, a secondary treatment removes contaminants from the LFG. If needed, an aftercooler extracts any excess water. Finally, the process withdraws sulfur and siloxane, and the gas gets compressed.
3. A final step remains before trucks can use the gas as fuel. An Advanced Treatment purges carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen (N2), oxygen (O2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The LFG then undergoes compression into a renewable natural gas that can fuel refuse trucks.

Repurposing landfill gases helps reduce the presence of CO2 and nitrogen oxides and reduces levels of particulate matter—airborne microscopic bits of solids and liquids. A typical landfill gas project may renew between 60 to 90 percent of emitted methane gas. Thus, the process described holds tremendous promise for the future, making it possible for the same trucks that collected the very garbage, which generated this gas, to now be fueled by those same gases.

Equipping Tomorrow’s Fleets Today
As an example, a truck running on natural gas can travel 600 miles on a single tank of renewable fuel. In addition, a natural gas truck can achieve 85 percent fuel capacity in 15 minutes or less. The benefits of natural gas include lower cost of fuel and zero emissions. As we have seen, current research demonstrates that refuse services play a more significant role in the implementation of legitimate environmental problems. Fuel options derived from natural gas provide a comparable alternative to diesel. | WA


The work of 2021 Nobel Prize winners Giorgio Parisi, Klaus Hasselmann and Syukuro Manabe focused on the dilemma of climate change. Hasselmann and Manabe each share the prize “for the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming.” Commenting to Reuters, Parisi referred to climate change as a “huge threat.”



Tim Thornton is Vice President and General Manager Refuse for Autocar, a leading company in addressing societal issues such as climate change with its CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) electric fleets and by placing driver safety in its mission. Autocar is also an industry leader in green innovation, becoming the first OEM to offer CNG trucks a full two years ahead of other industry players. As a result, Autocar has been an industry leader with more than 8,000 CNG trucks in service. Today, 60 percent of the trucks Autocar sells operate with CNG, and Autocar is the largest supplier of class 8 CNG trucks across all industries. For more information, call (833) 857-0200 or e-mail [email protected].