Data Summary of Municipal Solid Waste Management Alternatives. Volume 1: Report Text Page: 39 of 216
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Table ES.1 presents air emissions generated by the major integrated waste management
strategies (per ton of MSW, over a 20-year period). This table shows releases for each strategy
as a whole; Sections 5 through 9 in the report text, Volume I of "Data Summary of Municipal
Solid Waste Management Alternatives," break down emissions for key steps.
The releases occur at different rates during the individual steps-colletion/transportation,
processing, and final disposal-in each strategy. Transportation releases occur while MSW or
recyclable materials are in transit; combustion, MRF processing, and recycling also release
emissions over a short period of time. Composting and landfilling release air emissions over
periods ranging from months to the entire 20 years covered in this life-cycle analysis (landfills
actually release emissions for periods much longer than 20 years).
The single values that have been derived for this study are not an adequate basis for making
fine distinctions between individual options. Every option has a range of performance values
that vary with the design, operation, and maintenance of the equipment used and the nature of the
MSW being processed when the environmental releases were measured. For example, extensive
data on emissions from mass burning and RDF were used for this analysis, but they cannot be
used to determine whether one option will be consistently better than the other in actual opera-
tion. Large-scale differences between strategies like landfilling, combustion, or composting,
however, can be used to compare the probable results of using one strategy or another.
In general, releases of organic gases to the air are largest for strategies that landfill a large
percentage of the MSW. Landfill emissions consist of about 55% methane; about 2% by volume
is other organic gases, and the remainder is CO2.
In contrast, releases of metals and CO2 to the atmosphere are largest for the strategies that
include combustion of a large percentage of the MSW. Combustion emissions include almost no
organics, but extremely small quantities of dioxins and furans are emitted (as shown in Table
ES.1 in millionths of pounds per ton of MSW). Landfilling and other organic processes (com-
posting, anaerobic digestion) release extremely small quantities of metals, if any, to the air.
Curbside collection of recyclables increases the emissions from the pick up and transporta-
tion step of the MSW management strategy, but reduces the emissions from the disposal step
(landfill or combustion) because the smaller amount of material that remains for disposal pro-
duces lower releases. As indicated in Table ES. 1, comparisons of Strategies 1 and 6, 2 and 7,
and 4 and 8 show that some emissions increase and others decrease, but all the changes are rela-
tively small. This study does not cover releases during the remanufacturing step because inade-
quate data were found.
The water emitted from a landfill is called leachate. Environmental concerns about landfills
include the amount of toxic material (metals, organics, dioxins, and other components of MSW)
that is released from the landfill by leaching, and the final destination of the leachate. Most new
landfills are capped when they are filled, and regulations require them to have a liner and a
leachate collection system, and to treat the collected leachate. In spite of these practices, applica-
tion of a hydrologic model developed by the EPA has shown that about 25% of the rainwater that
falls on a landfill can leak in, and 13% of the amount that enters the landfill can escape the col-
lection system and leak out through the liner.
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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/m1/39/: accessed May 25, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.