DeKalb uses landfill gas to power trash trucks

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

Using trash to create fuel is not a new concept, but DeKalb County has taken the process a step further.

On Wednesday, county officials showed Channel 2 meteorologist David Chandley how the county is creating compressed natural gas from a landfill on Seminole Road and using that gas to power their trash trucks.

Officials are celebrating the opening of the county’s alternative fueling station.

“Our moniker is that we are converting trash to gas and then, gas to cash. This $20 million federally funded stimulus project is like none other in the country,” DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis said.

The process begins with the landfill, which produces methane gas every five years. That methane gas is pumped into a cleaning station, where certain materials are removed and what’s left becomes compressed natural gas for the fueling station. 

“DeKalb County is now a forerunner in the green energy industry,” Ellis said.

Billy Malone, the county's assistant director of sanitation, is thrilled. He said they have converted 40 vehicles from diesel to compressed natural gas.

“The fuel is a lot cleaner. They don't have as much carbon build-up. You know how a diesel is? It clatters down the road, produces a little bit of smoke. These are very clean running machines,” Malone told Chandley.

Ellis added, “Not only can we fill up our sanitation vehicles, but if you have a CNG (compressed natural gas) vehicle, and more and more of us can be moving that way as gas becomes that much more expensive, you can actually fill up right here.”

The price is to fill up is equivalent to $2.10 per gallon. There are two other fuel stations in Tucker and Lithonia, and a third is debuting Thursday on Buford Highway. The county is forecasting $3 million in savings on their vehicles over the next eight years.

“Full circle, we pick up your garbage, we process it, we dispose of it, and it produces something after the fact, and we use that to pick up your next load of garbage,” Malone said.

DeKalb County hopes to replace or adapt all of its 300 garbage trucks and sanitation vehicles to use natural gas.