Sustainability at Culver

Conserve – Reduce – Educate

Where does our trash go?


If you live near Culver, you have likely driven by Republic Services County Line Landfill hundreds of times.  And if you are like most people, if you have thought about the landfill, it has probably not been with the most charitable of intentions.  Today, three members of Culver’s Sustainability Committee, Chad Gard, Don Fox and Chris Kline,  took advantage of a break in classes and some periodic rain showers and attended a fascinating tour of this facility.

Republic Services handles more than 1 million pounds of waste from Culver Academies every year.  Our waste that isn’t recycled ends up at County Line.  (Republic runs a different facility which process recyclables.)  We wanted to see what happens when the trash trucks leave our campus.

Our hosts were Bob Shoots, Operations Manager of County Line, and Cody Humphrey, General Manager for Republic Services. Both men and the entire team of Republic Services were quite gracious and very open to answering our questions.  Joining us on the tour were other Republic customers, including Marianne Peters, Director of Marshall County Solid Waste District, and Lyn Ward, MCSWD Citizens Advisory Committee Member.

group photo

l-r Chad Gard, Lyn Ward, Don Fox, Marianne Peters, Chris Kline


From a distance, County Line is truly a big pile of trash.  Up close, it’s even bigger.  Covering more than 200 acres, the landfill is a remarkably complicated operation.  Scores of monitoring wells and air sensors cover the facility and data is collected for both management and regulatory purposes.

landfil profile

County Line Landfill looking south from the waste-to-energy plant.


top of landfill 1

A few of the large vehicles at the top of the pile.

Dozens of large vehicles — semi trucks, earth movers, large trash trucks and other equipment — move across the facility, managing the tons of material deposited there on a daily basis.  From this vantage point, I’m quite certain we were at the tallest point in both Marshall and Fulton counties.

top 2

Trash compactor vehicles, weighing more than 100,000 pounds, help manage the “air space” at the landfill,

Landfills are a significant source of climate-warming greenhouse gases, particularly methane.  Methane is produced when organic material, like food waste, breaks down in an anerobic environment (like that found in the cell of a capped landfill.)  Typically the methane escapes through vents and goes into the atmosphere where it disproportionately contributes to climate warming.

Not the case with the methane from County Line.  A waste to energy plant operated by Aria Energy, generates up to 6 MW of electricity from this gas, enough to power more than 3,000 homes.  This schematic from the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, depicts what is happening at County Line.

waste to energy schematic


Based on EPA calculations, Republic Services said that the County Line Landfill gas-to-energy project prevents carbon emissions equivalent to the consumption of more than 32 million gallons of gasoline.   Here are some pictures from the Aria facility.

Our group came away from the tour with a greatly expanded appreciation for the complexity of managing a modern landfill.  We certainly appreciate the work provided by Republic Services, particularly its efforts to prevent methane from getting into the environment.  And we appreciate the advice from landfill manager Bob Shoots, “Keep Recycling!”


2 thoughts on “Where does our trash go?

  1. Nice post. I’d be curious if you’re right about that being the highest point.

    I was aware of the Aria facility, but hadn’t heard anything about it’s success. I’m glad to hear that it is doing well. I’ll have to check that link out too. At their remote location, I assume they have limited options for marketing their energy.


    • I’m not sure where would be higher… they are open to doing tours at any time. They sell back to NIPSCO and given the relatively large amount of power they are generating (compared to a rooftop solar), my guess is they are getting paid wholesale ($.04/kwh) so it’s a long term investment. More progressive states (like CA) are moving ahead with prohibiting landfills from acceptting organic material. this type of facility makes the case that accepting organics isn’t all bad. Though there may be otther options.
      We can continue the discuusion on Friday!

      Liked by 1 person

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