Methane Emissions from Landfills: Problems and Solution
1.1 Background of the study
Landfills create a clear and obvious threat to human health as well as a threat to our environment from the hazardous contaminated air emissions emitted from the landfill biodegradation. There are over ten toxic gases released from landfills, of the most serious of which is methane. Methane gas is naturally produced during the process of decay of organic matter. As methane gas is formed, it builds up pressure and then begins to move through the soil. In a recent study of 288 landfills, off-site migration of gases, including methane, has been detected at 83% of these landfill sites. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Studies have shown significantly reduced height among children who live near Love Canal, the chemical waste dump near Niagara Falls, NY. It has also been shown that people living close to landfills suffer from lung and heart diseases from the toxic gasses that are released from the landfill degradation.
The key environmental problem we face as a result of landfills is groundwater pollution from leachates (the liquid that drains or ‘leaches’ from a landfill). Although they intended to protect human beings from toxins, due to natural deterioration the protective barriers only delay the inevitable. When a new municipal landfill is proposed, advocates of the project always emphasize that “no hazardous wastes will enter the landfill”. However, several studies have shown that even though municipal landfills may not legally receive “hazardous” wastes, the leachate they produce is as dangerous as leachate from hazardous waste landfills.
Methane, one of the main greenhouse gases (GHGs), has been assessed to have 28 times the global warming potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time horizon in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report; its GWP over a 20-year course is 84 times that of carbon dioxide.
A broad range of topics about methane emissions from landfills are covered in this report, including the gas-generating processes in landfill, the theories about modeling landfill gas generation and emission, the developed models and the current estimates of landfill emissions, as well as the calculation and analysis on several aspects. The findings provide both theoretical information and empirical data on landfill methane emissions.
As the number of landfills increase the likelihood of leaks increases five-fold. The increase in trash is due to population growth and consumerism. United States population growth is equivalent or marginally lower than most middle to low-middle income developing countries, but the American rate of consumption is far greater than any other developed or developing country today. The amount of waste collected in an average American household is far greater than that of any developed or developing country in the world today.
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