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Landfill Gas and Biogas for Community Development and Empowerment of Vulnerable Recyclers


If you are looking for COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT and CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION in one package, you may not need to look any further than your local landfill or sewage treatment plant. Landfill gas and biogas can fuel your project while greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Whether you would like to run glass furnaces for artists, process sweet potatoes, or create value-added processing to improve the lives of waste-pickers at the world’s landfills, biogas created from the decomposition of waste may be your answer for a high-profile project.

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METHANE is bipolar. It is a cold-blooded climate killer but also an efficient fuel. The problem is us! Before there were 7 or 8 billion of us crowding the planet, methane and its less potent cousin, carbon dioxide, were important catalysts in the chemistry of the atmosphere that makes life possible and pleasant on this planet. But now thanks to our carelessness, we have too much carbon dioxide and too much methane - perhaps the most insidious of greenhouse gases. It leaks from agriculture, municipal solid waste, and municipal wastewater sectors.

But THERE IS HOPE. If combusted, methane is an impressive fuel. Besides running generators and industrial boilers, as it has for a half century, landfill methane and biogas can fuel community development with novel uses, even with small amounts of leftover gas from generator of boiler projects.



A 1973 graduate of Purdue University, Stan Steury retired in 2018 after serving 34 years with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and 10 years with the Appalachian State University Energy Center.


During these years Stan also operated a private consulting service, Steury Renewable Energy. Stan was a founder and principal grant writer for the $1.5 million world renowned EnergyXchange Renewable Energy Center.


Steury has consulted on over 50 potential community-based landfill gas projects in North Carolina, throughout the US and in Brazil. Stan lives near Boone, NC with his wife of 46 years Carrie.

Image by Olga Thelavart


The ENERGYXCHANGE RENEWABLE ENERGY CENTER has served as an excellent prototype for community development through landfill gas utilization, based on the energy and community development needs identified by the local residents themselves. Developed in 1999 at the tiny, closed Yancey-Mitchell Landfill in the North Carolina mountains, the project was led by a team of several local partners. EnergyXchange incubated over 30 new small businesses in pottery and glass, many of whom established their business locally. EnergyXchange also enhanced dozens of local nursery businesses by providing greenhouse grown native shrubbery seedlings. The greenhouses also housed an experimental aquaponics project where culinary herbs were produced in a symbiotic system using fish waste from tilapia tanks.


To build the campus and start it’s programs, EnergyXchange received over $1.5 million in grants from federal and state government, foundations, and corporations. The greenhouses, pottery kilns, and glass furnaces were all powered with landfill gas for over 15 years. During that time the project reduced methane emissions that were the equivalent of removing 21,000 cars off the highways – more automobiles by far than are owned by Yancey County residents!


EnergyXchange received numerous local state and national awards. It was covered by a full page in the New York Times followed by a major 2 ½ minute spot on CNN news, which was then picked up by all the major television networks. Dozens of newspaper and magazine articles followed. The partners were asked to present the EnergyXchange story at conferences in several states and several foreign countries including China, Brazil, Canada, and Poland. Meanwhile the EnergyXchange campus was visited by an average of over 5,000 visitors per year including delegations from most US states and several foreign countries including Mexica, France, and Brazil.


Jackson County Green Energy Park

In the early 2000s, Timm Muth, who had been involved with major funding for EnergyXchange, envisioned a similar project in Jackson County, an hour and a half southwest of EnergyXchange, at the old Dillsboro landfill. He convinced local officials to move ahead with a project. In 2005, the Jackson County Green Energy Park was established. The methane from this landfill is used for glass furnaces, pottery kilns, and blacksmithing forges which are used by local artists. The landfill gas is also used for greenhouse heat. For more on the Jackson County Green Energy Park, click on the video below. To see more go to



COMMUNITY TIES was a program developed by the newly formed Appalachian State Energy Center in 2006 to try to duplicate the success of EnergyXchange and Jackson County Green Energy Park at landfills across North Carolina. The Energy Center assisted 21 North Carolina counties to community-development projects across the state.  The Center assisted these counties in identifying uses for landfill gas in their communities, developing plans and acquiring over $7 million dollars of grant money for these projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and several foundations and corporations. As a result, 6 new projects were developed and one existing project was expanded using this grant money. Together the 7 projects reduced methane emissions by over 24,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent - the same effect as preventing emissions from the combustion of 30 billion gallons of gasoline.

Meanwhile the staff of the Energy Center provided technical support to 9 other landfill gas utilization projects during their development in North Carolina.  Among the uses of landfill gas identified were sweet potato processing, automotive engine generators, pottery kilns, glass furnaces, greenhouse heating for tissue culture propagation of endangered native plants.

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