2021 journal article
Life-Cycle Assessment of a Regulatory Compliant U.S. Municipal Solid Waste Landfill
Environmental Science & Technology, 10.
Landfills receive over half of all U.S. municipal solid waste (MSW) and are the third largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions. Life-cycle assessment (LCA) of landfills is complicated by the long duration of waste disposal, gas generation and control, and the time over which the engineered infrastructure must perform. The objective of this study is to develop an LCA model for a representative U.S. MSW landfill that is responsive to landfill size, regulatory thresholds for landfill gas (LFG) collection and control, practices for LFG management (i.e., passive venting, flare, combustion for energy recovery), and four alternative schedules for LFG collection well installation. Material production required for construction and operation contributes 68-75% to toxicity impacts, while LFG emissions contribute 50-99% to global warming, ozone depletion, and smog impacts. The current non-methane organic compound regulatory threshold (34 Mg yr-1) reduces methane emissions by <7% relative to the former threshold (50 Mg yr-1). Requiring landfills to continue collecting LFG until the flow rate is <10 m3 min-1 reduces emissions by 20-52%, depending on the waste decay rate. In general, for landfills already required to collect gas, collecting gas longer is more important than collecting gas earlier to reduce methane emissions.