Data Summary of Municipal Solid Waste Management Alternatives. Volume 1: Report Text Page: 61 of 216
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2. ENERGY CONSIDERATIONS
This section summarizes the results of a life-cycle analysis of energy conducted for the
integrated strategies that include each of the five major MSW management technologies dis-
cussed in Sections 5 through 9. The objective of the analysis was to determine the energy needed
for each major strategy and the energy that is produced by the strategy, if any. The reasons for
choosing particular values and appropriate ranges, as well as judgments about the soundness of
the data for each strategy, are discussed in those sections and are not repeated here.
BASES FOR COMPARISONS
For analysis of energy balances, the MSW management strategies can be divided into two or
three steps. The first is collection, which can include a single collection of MSW, or separate
collection of recyclables, or separate collections of both recyclables and yard waste, followed by
transportation to the next step. The next step is either landfilling or processing, which might
include any of the major or less common technologies included in this report. The last stage is
disposal of the residues, usually in a landfill. Energy is always needed for collection (e.g., to
pick up the MSW) and transportation, and additional energy is always required for disposal as
well as processing (in a landfill, a materials recovery facility, or a combustion plant). The
analyses of the integrated strategies presented in Sections 5 through 8 break down energy
balances for the individual steps, to indicate the approximate amount required for each one. In
this section, however, energy balances are provided for each complete strategy.
The data for each technology and strategy are reported on the basis of one (1) ton of MSW,
set out for collection. If recyclable materials were separated before curbside collection, the data
are reported in proportion to the percentage of the original ton of unseparated MSW that was
The time frame covered by the comparisons is 20 years. That unusually long period was
chosen to permit comparisons of energy recovery from landfill gas collection with that for
combustion of MSW in a waste-to-energy facility. Gas forms very slowly in a landfill, and
choosing a shorter time frame for the analysis would underestimate the amount of energy that
might be recovered from the waste. A period longer than 20 years was not considered because
gas production in landfill-gas-to-energy operations may fall to an uneconomic level within that
time, and current commercial practice is to close the energy recovery operations when they have
operated for 20 years or less (CEC, 1991). The use of a 20-year period underestimates gas
production and may underestimate landfill gas recovery, but the available published data are
inadequate for extrapolating beyond that time period.
Gas recovery for energy production is not widely practiced. Fewer than 160 of the nation's
approximately 6,000 landfills have such facilities. However, gas recovery is a commercially
viable, beneficial option that is used as a benchmark for comparison with other technologies.
The elements of transportation considered in this report include the various collection steps
(i.e., energy required for collection of MSW in a packer truck and separate curbside collection of
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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/m1/61/: accessed May 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.