It used to be that the only exports of the Mamak Landfill in Ankara, Turkey were the powerful stench of rotting garbage and the foul liquid runoff that seeped into underground waters. But today, the landfill has cleaned up its act and is cranking out approximately 340 GWh of electricity per year that can be plugged into Turkey’s national grid. As part of its Renewable Energy Project in Turkey, the World Bank contributed $8 million to help give the capital city’s infamous landfill a green makeover. Today, the landfill provides 2.5% of Ankara’s total energy.

The ultimate goal is a “zero waste” landfill that has virtually no negative environmental effects—lofty aspirations for trash. For the twenty million tons of waste already stored at the site, a Land Fill Gas (LFG) extraction and utilization system is now used to harness and compress the methane gas released by decomposing waste and convert it into electricity. And as for the 3,500 tons of ‘fresh’ garbage entering the landfill each day, a biodigester will use the anaerobic digestion of bacteria to convert organic waste into compost and much-needed green power. Construction of the biodigester began in the first half of 2009. The project is the first of its kind in Turkey, but it may be a model of dramatic green development to come.

“Two years ago it was difficult to drive past this place because of the noxious smell and the unpleasant view. Today it is an industrial facility that processes the garbage and produces energy from it in a completely environmentally sustainable way,” says Ali Kantur, CEO of ITC (Invest Trading & Consulting), the firm responsible for the transformation of the Mamak Landfill. “It is hard to believe that the bitter odor is gone, the environment is protected, and on top of this we get energy out of this process.”

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