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Landfill Gas Utilization

WtERT's position in respect to current landfills is that the methane generated from them should be collected and flared, ideally with energy generation. The Council is strictly against the landfilling of untreated municipal solid waste.

A landfill in Poland.

Landfilling refers to the disposal of waste by burial. In the process, landfill gases are generated by the natural degradation of organic waste. The main landfill gases produced are methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), both gases are included in the green house gases (GHG) list as gases that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range and can regulate the earth’s temperature. On such GHG list, methane is given a global warming potential of 21 while carbon dioxide’s factor is 1.

A report of the European Environmental Agency stated that "in municipal waste management, landfilling of untreated waste is the worst option for the environment because of its emissions of methane, its long-term emissions to soils and groundwater as well as the loss of resources it entails.” The same opinion of landfilling as the worst-case scenario for municipal waste management is also present in Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council in which disposal of waste occupies the last place in the waste management hierarchy, that means that landfilling should only be done when recycling or energy recovery from waste can not be done or was performed already and the inert residues, e.g. ashes, have to be landfilled.

In order to minimize the negative effects of landfill gases in the atmosphere, the methane generated should be collected and flared as a way of reducing its green house gas potential. Equation 1 shows that combusting methane, GHG factor 21, destroys it and produces carbon dioxide, GHG factor 1, water and energy. In cases where it is economically feasible, the heating value of the landfill gases can also be utilized in a combined heat and power plant for the generation of renewable heat and energy. Another option is to purify and upgrade the biogas to natural gas quality in order to insert it into the national network to be used in, for example, households or as biofuel for transportation.

Equation 1: CH4 + 2O2 → CO2 + 2H2O + 802,3 kJ/mol

Landfilling not only causes air, water and soil pollution, discharging carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere and chemicals and pesticides into the earth and groundwater it also takes up valuable land space, they can handle just a limited amount of waste, require after closure economical investment for maintenance and, in some cases, deconstruction investment is also needed to recover materials that were landfilled. Furthermore when the whole landfill project is finished, the property as land becomes useless.

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  • Eurostat, 2007. Environment and energy database

Created by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Faulstich (CUTEC Institut an der TU Clausthal), (2013-08-11), last modified by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Faulstich (CUTEC Institut an der TU Clausthal), (2014-07-10)


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