Marines Transform Trash into Energy Savings
CREDIT: Terragon Environmental Technologies Inc.
Whether deployed on land or at sea, U.S. Marines must wage a relentless war against trash. Now they have a new, slow-bake weapon capable of turning a 50-gallon bag of waste into a half-pint jar of ash.
The technology can break down mixed waste cardboard, plastic and food by cooking it at 1,382 degrees F (750 degrees C) to create ash for safe disposal in landfills or for helping to grow plants. As a bonus, the process not only makes synthetic gas capable of powering itself, but also leaves waste heat usable for heating living spaces or water aboard Navy ships or in forward operating bases.
"Decades ago, the idea of harvesting energy from trash was just a sideshow in the environmental movement, said Steve McElvany, the Micro Auto Gasification System (MAGS) program officer at the U.S. Office for Naval Research. "Now, the technology is mature enough to where the Department of the Navy is seriously evaluating its practical and tactical benefits."
The Marines see promise in the energy-efficient MAGS technology for their expeditionary units deployed across the world because of its low carbon footprint and the lack of visible emissions. They have already begun testing one MAGS unit at Camp Smith on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, and plan to expand to field testing next summer.
Each unit has the ability to handle the waste of 1,000 Marines every day a significant step forward for waste disposal in the eyes of Lt. Col. Mike Jernigan, a Marine combat engineer who recently commanded a logistics battalion in Afghanistan.
"Right now, there are really only two solutions: burn it or bury it," Jernigan said. "Any potential solution must reduce the security and logistics concerns of trash disposal and help the environment ... that's a good thing for the Marine Corps ."
Such technology could help the Navy meet its clean energy goal of getting 50 percent of energy for its bases from alternative sources by 2020. But it may also find civilian use in working for schools, hospitals and office buildings.
The Office for Naval Research developed the technology along with Canada's Department of National Defense. MAGS units are made by Terragon Environmental Technologies Inc.