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Generators and Motors

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Electricity from Trash

Electricity From Trash

License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Trash trucks like this one are a common sight on city streets. Where do they take the trash? Many go to landfills, but some go to power plants.

The Back Story

  • Trash-burning power plants turn garbage into electricity. There are almost 90 such plants in the U.S. and hundreds more around the world. There may be one in your community.
  • You might think that burning trash, instead of taking it to a landfill, would be good for the environment. But there are cons as well as pros of producing electricity from garbage.
  • To understand the pros and cons, you first need to know how trash is used to produce electricity. You can see how it’s done by watching this short video: http://science.discovery.com/tv-shows/how-do-they-do-it

What Do You Think?

Learn more about generating electricity from trash at the link below. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What is the first step in producing electricity from trash?
  2. How does burning trash lead to the production of electricity? Outline the steps involved.
  3. Burning anything, whether it is trash or a fossil fuel such as coal, produces carbon dioxide and air pollution. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. How do trash-burning power plants reduce their emissions of harmful substances?
  4. Despite the use of pollution controls, many people have concerns about burning trash to produce electricity. List the pros and cons of producing electricity from trash.
  5. Based on the pros and cons, is it a good idea to produce electricity from trash? What do you think? Explain your decision.

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ License: CC BY-NC 3.0


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