Emptying landfills and debunking waste myths
By Michael Hart
May 17, 2010
Landfills are a bad idea.
This may not be a news flash, however there seems to be an endless supply of subject matter experts on the topic that are all too willing to point to “solutions” with misleading or inaccurate explanations.
Landfills are bad because each ton of trash placed in a landfill emits two tons of greenhouse gas: one ton of CO₂ and another ton of methane, which is 23 times more destructive to the ozone layer than CO₂. The net effect is that every ton of waste buried in a landfill puts 24 tons of CO₂ or its equivalent (CO₂e) into the atmosphere.
Consider the fact that the United States produces 240 million tons of municipal solid waste each year. Despite efforts to reduce the amount of waste through recycling and other means, two-thirds of that waste still ends up in landfills, emitting toxic methane levels equating to 160 million tons per year or 3.8 billion tons of CO₂e annually in the US. This is equal to the emission of all of the world’s 600,000,000 vehicles on the road today. Clearly, one of the “Holy Grails” of the cleantech movement is a cost-effective means of cleanly and profitably recycling 100 percent of this waste.