It was announced in November that the Toyota Georgetown, Kentucky plant had plans to activate a landfill gas generator. In doing this, the plant would be able to use methane from decaying garbage from a nearby dump to produce a megawatt of power each hour. The kind of electricity you see from this type of system will help to build 10,000 vehicles at the plant, per year.

 

Toyota plays with the idea years ago

Toyota talked with the landfill owner in 2010 about the possibility of using a methane-fueled generator. In 2014, their plan was officially announced, and construction began on the project. Once the gas stops burning, an underground line will take the electricity from the dump to the factory to help build Toyota hybrid models, such as the Camry and Avalon. The Toyota company has an overall plan of eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from all factories by the year 2050, and switching to hydrogen-based production. Toyota’s general manager for environment strategies, Kevin Butt, has stated the company’s intention of reducing their carbon footprint over the next 35 years. Toyota isn’t the only auto company utilizing methane from garbage dumps to power factories. BMW and General Motors both use a similar system at two of their plants, in different parts of the country.

 

Positive changes in the past month

Since announcing that the Georgetown plant would be using a landfill to help produce the electricity that can help build cars, the plant is doing well. They are getting about two percent of their power from a Central Kentucky landfill. The community has shared their appreciation for the plant and that they are turning garbage into something good. With so many in the town employed by this plant, it brings a large sense of pride especially to a community that has recently been struggling with employment rates. These large employment rates increase the amount of debt the citizens have to take on during these hard times in the form of car title loans. Mike Price, the Vice President of Administration for the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, could not contain his excitement for the plan. It is exciting because they are using methane that is no longer being released into the air, and is serving a better purpose. Over the year spent developing the project, the company spent $5 million to build transmission lines that carry electricity to the plant. Kevin Butt explained the process in that the lines go from one site, where it is being generated, all the way to the plant. David Hurley, an employee at the Georgetown plant said that at first, they had a lot of questions about how the partnership with the landfill was going to work. Hurley moved to Georgetown to begin his position with Toyota and respects the partnership the company made. It actually gives him a sense of pride because he is doing good for both the company he works for and his community.

 

Toyota is doing a great job at really seeing how car emission can negatively affect the environment. Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States, so to change the way methane is used is a huge stride forward. You can learn more about the Georgetown, Kentucky plant and how they are converting landfill methane into energy, by watching this video.

 

Cars are incredibly dangerous. Every year, over 1.3 million people die in car related crashes around the world, with an addition 20 to 50 million injuries or disabilities resulting from auto collisions. In a dangerous world, traffic and road related accidents rank as the 9th leading cause of death, making up around 2.2% of all deaths worldwide. Most of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries in the developing world, where infrastructure is often lacking, cars are typically antiquated, yet the number of cars on the road and the miles travelled continues to go up. According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, if no action is taken by governments, traffic accidents will become the fifth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030, just 15 years from today.

 

It should come as no surprise to anyone that has visited Thailand that a recent UN study on automotive safety has determined that the country has the 2nd deadliest roads in the entire world. The 2015 Global Status Report on Road Safety notes that 14,059 people were killed on Thai roads in 2012, a rate of 36.2 casualties per 100,000 people. The only country that ranked ahead of Thailand in the study was Lybia, with a death rate of 73.4 per 100,000 residents.  Making matters worse, the UN concluded that Thailand regularly under reports road related fatalities due to a lax approach to record keeping and decentralized enforcement. According to WHO, the Public Health Ministry in Thailand understates road fatalities by 42%.

 

Thailand lacks some basic road safety measures found in many other countries, including in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. For example, Thailand does not have a child restraint or child safety seat requirement, nor a universal seat belt law. New road projects are rarely subjected to safety reviews and audits, and contractors often cut corners to save money on materials. A recently constructed road in the town of Pattaya, which was supposed to separate pedestrians from cars, tuk tuks, and motorbikes, only made the problem worse as the lack of sufficient curb space only encouraged motorbikes to go up on the part of the street that was designed to serve pedestrians. This has already resulted in fatalities for drivers, pedestrians, and even roadside merchants with stands along highways.

 

The heavy use of motorbikes is also a problem. The mode of transportation is increasingly convenient as roads become more and more congested. In addition, motor bikes are a staple of Thai culture which prides itself on efficient, low cost transportation options. Nevertheless, they present a far greater risk of fatality to drivers than cars, buses, and even tuk tuks. Tourists in popular destinations like Koh Samui are frequently allowed to rent motor bikes with minimal knowledge of the rules of the road and a complete lack of training.

 

In addition, road and safety rules are rarely enforced, even with increasing government scrutiny. For example, the national drunk driving limit of 0.05 is lower than in most US states, but is rarely enforced.