Data Summary of Municipal Solid Waste Management Alternatives. Volume 1: Report Text Page: 28 of 216
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Today, 69-73% of MSW is landfilled, and landfill gas is recovered for energy at about 128
of the nation's larger landfills; 17% of it is burned, 94% of that amount (or almost 16% of total
MSW) for energy recovery. Estimates of the percentage of MSW that is recycled vary
significantly; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of Technology
Assessment (OTA) have published estimates of 10-14%. Composting accounts for a small
percentage of waste treatment.
The EPA has set a national voluntary goal of reducing the quantity of MSW by 25% through
source reduction and recycling by 1992, and at least 21 states have adopted laws to mandate or
encourage separation of recyclable materials from MSW. The quantity of waste recycled by
programs under community control is not well documented.
Collection and Transportation
MSW management includes curbside collection of the waste, transportation of the waste to a
landfill or a processing facility (e.g., a combustor or a materials recovery facility), and possibly
transportation of the residue from processing to a landfill. Although many models of collection
and transportation requirements for various types of collection programs have been developed, it
proved difficult to find actual data on energy and emissions for these steps. Accordingly, this
study used data on transportation energy requirements supplied by one community. The city had
operated a curbside collection program for recyclables for many years, and it initiated a program
for curbside collection of yard waste about a year before this study began. It is not necessarily
typical of other communities.
The community supplied data on actual tonnages collected by each truck in each of the three
separate collection programs; the number of trucks operated and the number of miles traveled by
each truck; and the fuel consumption on each route. Fuel use per ton of material picked up on
each route was lowest for collecting household and commercial MSW. About 2.5 times more
fuel was used to pick up a ton of separated recyclables, and about 600 times more fuel was used
to collect a ton of yard waste (because of the small quantities collected on each route in that
To develop the estimates presented in this summary, these fuel use rates were converted to
energy use per ton of MSW at the curb, and then apportioned according to the amounts set out.
The energy and emissions results are extremely sensitive to the amount collected by each truck.
Therefore, energy use per ton of material collected increases as additional curbside collection
programs are implemented.
No direct emission measurements for MSW collection or curbside collection vehicles have
been made during actual operation. Emissions from collection and transportation were therefore
estimated on the basis of the actual fuel use by assuming that the emissions per unit of fuel met
the maximum permissible emission limits for heavy-duty diesel truck engines operating
according to a specified EPA procedure that simulates freeway and city driving. When these
engine limits have been compared to actual emissions from vehicles under the same load and
speed conditions, the results vary by 20-50% for emissions of different types; for example, the
operating vehicles emit larger quantities of hydrocarbons and particulates, but smaller amounts
of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide than the tested engines. The duty cycle of the MSW
packer trucks in these tests is quite different, in terms of stop-start frequency and compactor
operation, from the typical duty cycle for the trucks modeled by the EPA. Therefore, in
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SRI International. Data Summary of Municipal Solid Waste Management Alternatives. Volume 1: Report Text, report, October 1992; Golden, Colorado. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1310776/m1/28/: accessed May 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.