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Making waste work

Turning coal into batteries and wastewater into natural gas

Amid concerns about climate change and energy reserves, both researchers and communities are finding new ways to turn trash into treasure.

This week two such projects, where benefits acrue from the "trash turning" as well as the "treasure collecting," stepped into the spotlight.

In Nebraska, the city of Omaha launched a $20m gas conditioning project that will clean biogas waste and in the process produce lucrative pipeline quality renewable natural gas. Local news KETV shares the details:

And, an article by Eliza Griswold in The New Yorker describes how it may be possible to extract cobalt, manganese, lithium, and neodymium - metals needed by many high-tech products - from coal mine drainage: "Acid mine drainage has long been a scourge in Appalachia. Recent research suggests that we may be able to simultaneously clean up the pollution and extract the minerals and elements needed to power green technologies."

Processing the minerals here in the US would benefit the local and national economy and help with supply chain problems, and could limit our dependence on countries that often use child labor and other onerous practices to mine those precious metals,

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