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Latvia Garbage Dump Helps Grow a Tomato Farm

Garbage Dump Helps Grow a Tomato Farm
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Latvia is not among countries whose latitude makes it suitable for growing moderate-climate vegetables, such as tomatoes. But, through clever use of a garbage dump as a source of energy, a large greenhouse near the capital Riga is now growing more than 450 tons of tomatoes annually.

Latvian consumers who enjoy these yellow tomatoes may not even know that they are locally grown, let alone that they grew with the help of their own garbage.

The huge Getlini garbage dump outside the Latvian capital Riga, receives about half of the country's waste. It was such an ecological hazard that its conversion was one of the requirements for Latvia’s accession to the European Union.

Ten years ago, with financial help from Sweden and the World Bank, Latvia turned the dump into a power plant for collecting methane gas from the decomposing garbage and turning it into electricity.

The process also helps the tomatoes in the greenhouse, says agronomist Guntars Strauts.

“An energy generator collects the gas emitted from the landfill and cleans it and produces electricity in the internal combustion engines. The engines warm up, just like in a car. Therefore, the energy generator needs a big radiator to cool down. The greenhouse is the radiator of this big car. So the only connection between the greenhouse and the landfill is the heat coming from it," said Strauts.

Because of Latvia’s climate, the greenhouse must be heated even in the summer. The warmed air helps extract excess moisture to keep fungal diseases from the plants.

While non-recyclable waste is turned into energy, the Getlini plant also collects and processes recyclable waste.

In October, a new factory will open nearby with a 10-year goal to recycle up to 90 percent of the 300,000 tons of garbage and waste that the Getlini dump receives annually.