Ooops! Biodegradeable products release methane which is more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas

Bad news for Greenware cups like the one below.

Study: Biodegradable Products May Be Bad For The Environment

Research from North Carolina State University shows that so-called biodegradable products are likely doing more harm than good in landfills, because they are releasing a powerful greenhouse gas as they break down.

“Biodegradable materials, such as disposable cups and utensils, are broken down in landfills by microorganisms that then produce methane,” says Dr. Morton Barlaz, co-author of a paper describing the research and professor and head of NC State’s Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering. “Methane can be a valuable energy source when captured, but is a potent greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere.”

And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only about 35 percent of municipal solid waste goes to landfills that capture methane for energy use. EPA estimates that another 34 percent of landfills capture methane and burn it off on-site, while 31 percent allow the methane to escape.

“In other words,” Barlaz says, “biodegradable products are not necessarily more environmentally friendly when disposed in landfills.”

This problem may be exacerbated by the rate at which these man-made biodegradable materials break down. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines call for products marked as “biodegradable” to decompose within “a reasonably short period of time” after disposal. But such rapid degradation may actually be environmentally harmful, because federal regulations do not require landfills that collect methane to install gas collection systems for at least two years after the waste is buried. If materials break down and release methane quickly, much of that methane will likely be emitted before the collection technology is installed. This means less potential fuel for energy use, and more greenhouse gas emissions.

As a result, the researchers find that a slower rate of biodegradation is actually more environmentally friendly, because the bulk of the methane production will occur after the methane collection system is in place. Some specific biodegradable products such as bags that hold yard waste and are always sent to composting or anaerobic digestion facilities were not included in the study.

“If we want to maximize the environmental benefit of biodegradable products in landfills,” Barlaz says, “we need to both expand methane collection at landfills and design these products to degrade more slowly – in contrast to FTC guidance.”

The paper, “Is Biodegradability a Desirable Attribute for Discarded Solid Waste? Perspectives from a National Landfill Greenhouse Gas Inventory Model,” was co-authored by Barlaz and NC State Ph.D. student James Levis, and was published online May 27 by the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The research was supported by Procter & Gamble and the Environmental Research and Education Foundation.

-shipman-

The study abstract follows.

“Is Biodegradability a Desirable Attribute for Discarded Solid Waste? Perspectives from a National Landfill Greenhouse Gas Inventory Model”

Authors: James W. Levis, Morton A. Barlaz, North Carolina State University

Published: Online May 27, Environmental Science & Technology

Abstract: There is increasing interest in the use of biodegradable materials because they are believed to be “greener”. In a landfill, these materials degrade anaerobically to form methane and carbon dioxide. The fraction of the methane that is collected can be utilized as an energy source and the fraction of the biogenic carbon that does not decompose is stored in the landfill. A landfill life-cycle model was developed to represent the behavior of MSW components and new materials disposed in a landfill representative of the U.S. average with respect to gas collection and utilization over a range of environmental conditions (i.e., arid, moderate wet, and bioreactor). The behavior of materials that biodegrade at relatively fast (food waste), medium (biodegradable polymer) and slow (newsprint and office paper) rates was studied. Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyoctanoate) (PHBO) was selected as illustrative for an emerging biodegradable polymer. Global warming potentials (GWP) of 26, 720, -1000, 990, and 1300 kg CO2e wet Mg1_ were estimated for MSW, food waste, newsprint, office paper, and PHBO, respectively in a national average landfill. In a state-of-the-art landfill with gas collection and electricity generation, GWP’s of -250, 330, -1400, -96, and -420 kg CO2e wet Mg1 _ were estimated for MSW, food waste, newsprint, office paper and PHBO, respectively. Additional simulations showed that for a hypothetical material, a slower biodegradation rate and a lower extent of biodegradation improve the environmental performance of a material in a landfill representative of national average conditions.

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61 Responses to Ooops! Biodegradeable products release methane which is more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas

  1. Paul Deacon says:

    Pardon my French, as it were, but does that cup really say:

    f-k.com

    Sums it up, really.

  2. polistra says:

    Wonder how many acres of landfill could be bought with the money that was wasted on this study?

  3. rbateman says:

    Since when it methane, a naturally occuring gas of decomposition, ever been a threat to life on Earth? This gas is simply a stage in the release of energy that initially came to the Planet from the Sun.
    This too shall pass, for those espousing imminent danger over methane are themselves full of it /sarc

  4. AnonyMoose says:

    Oh, good. I just posted this in Tips. Apparently I did have a good idea; it became an article while I was typing.

  5. Robert of Texas says:

    So they want it to decompose into what exactly? Water? No, that’s a more potent greenhouse gas! Methane has a halflife in the atmosphere of like 10-12 years; it gradually converts to CO2 and…yup Water.

    So take all these bio-degradable products and throw them into a bio-vat to make methane to burn for energy – oh wait, but then you have to use all of the energy to pump the CO2 into the ground so never mind.

    You just cannot win against global warming phobia. You have to crawl over into a corner and curl up into a ball doing nothing for fear of destroying the world. Or…get on with life and accept your presence is going to add CO2 to the atmosphere.

  6. Chris says:

    The methane concentration in the atmosphere is fairly stable (if not declining). It all turns to CO2 anyway within a generation. Never understood the methane doom story.

  7. Scott says:

    This is beyond hilarious.

  8. Richard Patton says:

    All I can think of to say is “Poor Greenies!” You try to good to Mother Nature and she goes and shoots you in the tush for your efforts.

  9. Dave N says:

    f-k.com

    Well, there’s an appropriate website name.. the dash obviously replaces the letters U and C.

    I wonder how many greenies will stop using biodegradable products now?

  10. Douglas DC says:

    Burn it in Situ….
    Oh wait…

  11. Elizabeth (not the Queen) says:

    There must be something we can use to make a 100% environmentally friendly beverage cup…. something… Wait, I know, dung cups! Dung is naturally occuring and when your done your slushie you can bury the cup in your garden or even just throw it onto your lawn… natural fertilizer! I believe it may be somewhat hard to market, but these people do want to save the planet, after all, so no sacrifice is too great, right?

  12. Peter S says:

    The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

  13. R. de Haan says:

    My comment exists of two words: Foxtrot Oscar

  14. Seamus Dubh says:

    Looks like the greenies skipped another science class. Methane release is part of the digestion/breakdown of organic/bio materials. Make it break down faster it releases methane faster. This if basic BIOLOGY.

  15. mike restin says:

    “anaerobic digestion facilities were not included in the study.”
    you’re kidding me, right? A what?

  16. Justthinkin says:

    @Dave N….not one.They can’t read and digest facts remember?Just crap. ALL material is bio-degradable,it’s just a matter of how long it takes.Same as ALL food is organic.If it wasn’t,we’d be dead from eating it. Oh wait(Spain)

  17. Ray says:

    As a chemist I always was against biodegradable garbage. Even diamonds are biodegradable given enough time. The problem is really the time we allow garbage to decompose. The environment is simply not capable of absorbing so much derivative products from the decomposition in such little time. I would prefer to have garbage that don’t decompose too fast in order to recycle them efficiently with little modification.

  18. sophocles says:

    Methane: a nice high-calory flammable gas. It’s been known for decades land fills produce methane in quantity.

    It should be captured and used—after all, it’s a renewable alternative energy source … so why are we worried about bio-degradable cups producing methane? We should be worried we’re not exploiting the methane … so let’s do that and bury more of those cups.

  19. John F. Hultquist says:

    Maybe with enough government subsidy, research grants, and tax law contortions an enterprising and innovative person could figure out how to make variously shaped items for drinking out of from silica. Wait a minute . . . !

  20. Gary Hladik says:

    Instead of making trash biodegradeable to methane for use as fuel, burn the trash directly for electricity and cut out the middleman, so to speak.

  21. Ron Manley says:

    Whilst Methane is, in one sense, a poweful greenhouse gas it only blocks outgoing radiation over a narrow spectrum (which it shares with Nitrous Oxide). Even if all radiation in that specturm were to be blocked its effect on temperature would be minimal.

    http://www.climatedata.info/Forcing/Emissions/introduction.html

  22. Charles Higley says:

    We should not forget, however, that methane, although supposedly 20 times better as a heat-trapping gas is measured in ppb in the atmosphere. It is 1000-10,000 LESS abundant and thus accounts for a truly negligible amount of supposed warming, being 50-500 times less in effectiveness taking into account the 20x comparison.

    Methane’s half-life in the atmosphere is also quite short, as is CO2’s 5.4 year half-life.

    Another tempest in a teapot brought to us by the Panic-artist bed-wetting warmists.

  23. Andrew30 says:

    Is it even possible to create a non-biodegradable hydrocarbon substance?

  24. Ray says:

    Anaerobic digesters are also another Greeny promoted technology for sustainability. What they won’t tell you is that those are not only not really efficient but also that they are leaking methane is very impressive quantities since they are not exactly 100% sealed. Another inconvenient truth for the Greenies.

  25. Martin Brumby says:

    Let’s also not forget that the vast majority of greenie products are less functional than the ones they replace.

    The other week I lost a rather nice bottle of wine because the wretched “biodegradable” bag split when I was carrying it home.

    Then you have lead free solder which doesn’t solder as well as the old stuff. Light bulbs? Don’t even go there. Eco – friendly paint? Yes, only costs twice as much per can as the old stuff and then you have to apply twice as many coats to get it to cover. Eco-low-flush toilets? Yes, enjoy hanging about to wait for the cistern to fill so you can flush it again. And again.

    Great stuff.

    And coming back to bags, the damned things only ‘biodegrade’ in quite specific conditions anyway. See a bag blown into someone’s hedge? It won’t have ‘biodegraded’ three months later. Or six months.

  26. andyscrase says:

    In New Zealand’s ETS, methane from landfills gets taxed, so we are well used to this madness. Yes, our compost and grass clippings are officially bad for the environment.

  27. son of mulder says:

    OT but I couldn’t resist. And from the Times newspaper today

    “Researchers have found a “potentially devastating” effect of carbon emissions on sealife.
    As the sea turns more acid because of CO2 in the atmosphere, it may make fish deaf.”

    The findings are published in Biology Letters, a periodical of the Royal Society.

  28. Patrick Davis says:

    “andyscrase says:
    May 31, 2011 at 11:44 pm”

    That sounds crazy, but not a surprise. I know, when Labour were in power, they approved the clear felling of 80 year old prime forrest…in favour of farming beasts. I think total area felled was 80,000 hectares.

  29. Allan M says:

    Ray says:
    May 31, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Anaerobic digesters are also another Greeny promoted technology for sustainability.

    Well there’s more fun from the greenies here: botulism from biogas plants-

    http://notrickszone.com/2011/05/19/biogas-plants-producing-deadly-botulism-could-be-catastrophic-to-wildlife/

    and here: e-coli in cucumbers-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13592765

    I suspect the latter case is due to spreading human sewage as fertilizer.

    —————
    Maybe all packaging should be biodogreadable (this means it can be read by a bio-dog, not just a computer modelled dog.) We need to be fair to all sentient beings. :)

  30. John Marshall says:

    Two better ways to get rid of rubbish:-
    1).Burn it at high temperature and produce electricity.
    2).Place in a biodigester and produce methane to polymerise into transport fuel, which is getting cost effective given the imposed cost of petroleum.

  31. Brian H says:

    Excellent. The faster the CH4 gets into the air and becomes CO2 and H2O, the better.

  32. bruce says:

    Is the environment bad for the environment?

  33. Jer0me says:

    Martin Brumby says:
    May 31, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    Let’s also not forget that the vast majority of greenie products are less functional than the ones they replace.

    The other week I lost a rather nice bottle of wine because the wretched “biodegradable” bag split when I was carrying it home.

    Then you have lead free solder which doesn’t solder as well as the old stuff. Light bulbs? Don’t even go there. Eco – friendly paint? Yes, only costs twice as much per can as the old stuff and then you have to apply twice as many coats to get it to cover. Eco-low-flush toilets? Yes, enjoy hanging about to wait for the cistern to fill so you can flush it again. And again.

    Great stuff.

    And eco-friendly washing machines and dishwashers.

    I was told by someone in the trade that the reason these devices no longer do the job is because they are crippled by being forced to use less water and less energy. All those pretty ‘energy-saving’ stars are actually an indicator of how poorly the device will perform.

    Get the lowest number of stars possible, and, ‘hey presto’ you get a household device that works for a change! We did that, and it’s damned well true.

  34. maz2 says:

    Is Suzuki bad for the environment? Is Suzuki, et al, biodegradable? Should this be on Reader Tips?

    …-

    “The case of the missing sea lice”

    “Why did the David Suzuki Foundation remove Web pages on the dangers of farmed salmon?

    By Vivian Krause

    For more than a decade, the David Suzuki Foundation has run an aggressive campaign against farmed salmon. “It’s poison!” David Suzuki told a conference in Toronto. “Phone your local hospitals and find out if farmed salmon is served to patients,” said a brochure from his foundation.

    The Suzuki Foundation distributed a brochure titled Why You Shouldn’t Eat Farmed Salmon. It features David Suzuki’s photo prominently on the front page. Since last February, however, that brochure — along with 20 press releases and Web pages about salmon farming — have been quietly removed from the foundation’s website. Gone.

    In a recent op-ed in The Vancouver Sun, moreover, the foundation’s marine expert, Jay Ritchlin, wrote: “Salmon farming has long been a controversial issue, especially in British Columbia. But is the tide starting to turn? We think it is.” After all these years of anti-salmon-farm activism, the David ­Suzuki Foundation appears to be softening its stance. But why?

    Internet archives show that last February, 16 press releases and Web pages about salmon farming were removed merely hours after I put on my blog a detailed letter to David Suzuki in which I asked questions about the funding and scientific weakness of the Suzuki Foundation’s position.” [...]

    “SeaWeb gets money from a variety of interesting sources. Since 2000, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, based in California, has funded SeaWeb as part of its marine fisheries program. This program has a focus on “the U.S. Arctic,” which presumably is Alaska. U.S. tax returns show that Packard has paid SeaWeb $23-million since 2000. That included $9-million for a marketing strategy called Seafood Choices and $6-million for Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea (COMPASS), a program that helped publicize the CMB’s Canadian sea lice research around the world.

    At the same time that SeaWeb was funded to co-ordinate Seafood Choices, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation funded SeaWeb to co-ordinate an “anti-farming campaign” with “science messages” and “earned media.” The purpose of this campaign was “to shift consumer and retailer demand away from farmed salmon,” U.S. tax returns say.

    When studies on both contaminants and sea lice were published in Science, the editor-in-chief was Dr. Donald Kennedy, a trustee of the Packard Foundation. The current editor, Dr. Bruce Alberts, is a trustee of the Moore Foundation.

    The University of Alberta scientists reported that their sea lice research was funded by Ottawa’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and other sources. What the sea lice scientists didn’t mention is that some of the funding from the David Suzuki Foundation originated from the Moore Foundation, the same foundation that paid SeaWeb for the “anti-farming campaign” with “science messages” and “earned media.” The Moore Foundation, in an email to me, has said that it doesn’t know precisely how much of a $450,000 grant to the David Suzuki Foundation was re-granted to the CMB for its sea lice research, but that this amount was “less than $100,000.””

    http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/05/31/the-missing-sea-lice/

    Vivian Krause:

    http://fairquestions.typepad.com/rethink_campaigns/

  35. Pete in Cumbria UK says:

    a puzzle for someone whose better at Googling than me, (I remember reading things but sadly, not where I read them anymore)

    I first came across this stuff at the BigChill festival here in the UK- in the form of ‘pint glasses’. Believe me, by the time they’ve been discarded, dropped and trodden into the ground at a festival site, they are more dangerous to sandal-clad or bare feet than their (real) glass equivalents.
    I wondered at the time, foolishly believing the bio-degradable bit, why it was that the litter pickers were making such a point about gathering these things up- why not just leave them to ‘bio-degrade’?
    I did some research and, yes the claims about bio-biodegradability are close to true BUT, the compost heap they’re put into needs to get to at least 60’C
    If it doesn’t reach that temperature and hold it for some time (few do), that stuff is indestructible compared to normal polythene or polystyrene.

  36. Pull My Finger says:

    I know glass is expensive and heavy, but it’s the perfect container. Reusable, recylcable, quite strong, doesn’t spoil the taste of what ever it is holding (truly its best quality).

    Starbucks and some other places are using biodegradable cups for coffee, which is all fine and good, except they BURN THE F*** OUT YOUR HAND! I mean really, other than holding liquid against the forces of gravity, isn’t not buring your hand the #1 requirement for a hot drink cup? I go to Dunkin Donuts and their good old styrofoam cups.

  37. Years ago I co-authored a paper with Mort on recycling plastics to keep them out of land fills. At that time, there were only a few landfills that captured and used the natural gas that was produced. I’m pleased to see that 35% of municipal waste now goes to landfills that capture and use this clean valuable source of energy. The solution is not to adjust the waste digestion rate to the average landfill, but to convert or replace those landfills that are not capturing and using this valuable resource. This is applicable to sewage plants, hog lagoons, etc.

  38. Jeff L says:

    Hard times to be green.
    Hopefully it helps shatter the illusion that one can live an impact-free life.

  39. Enneagram says:

    Greens are being turn into rotten brown, because of the heat of global warming. They do not realize it but its decomposition began with the fall of the Berlin´s wall.

  40. Mark Wagner says:

    I seriously doubt that there’s much decomposition going on in a landfill. The whole point of a landfill is that the garbage DOESN’T rot. They go to great lengths to keep out water and air, the two main requirements for decomposition. Too many noxious odors, nasty critters (bacteria), and undesirable byproducts (methane) result from decomposition, and no one wants that stuff getting out, especially into the water table.

    And you thought hydro-fracking was a hazard… but I digress.

    I always chuckle when somebody digs up a 50 year old newspaper from the landfill that hasn’t rotted and exclaims “See! It hasn’t rotted! We’re polluting the environment.” Dummies. You don’t want it to rot.

    Now, throwing your biodegradable coffee cup out of the car window…

  41. Mark Wagner says:

    @ Jerome

    Yes, we purchased a high-efficiency washer and dryer six months ago. It wouldn’t clean the clothes, wouldn’t wash out debris (grass clippings), wrinkled and wadded up the wet ball of clothes so badly that the dryer wouldn’t remove the wrinkles (increased ironing), tore things with straps, and sounded like someone was kicking the dog (seriously) while washing.

    It lasted 4 days before being returned.

    Thanks to gub’mint regulations on “average fleet efficiency,” you can no longer buy a good ‘ol “regular” washing machine any more unless it’s the small capacity.

    Fortunately there’s quite an industry arising to refurbish used machines, which we now own.

    /soapbox

  42. Brian H says:

    Here’s another way to go: plascoenergygroup.com . A plasma torch installation powered by the syngas it generates itself from waste. Output is a little aggregate for use in concrete or asphalt, and a moderate amount of electricity.

  43. alan says:

    We live in a suburb of a modest-size Midwestern city. We are forced to recycle. It is not something that we can opt out of. It is expensive and inconvenient. I know that there is a real market for recycle metals. But I have heard that there is little market for recycled paper, plastic, and glass. The suspicion is that much of these wastes, after being collected, has to be stored in warehouses, and eventually shipped to a landfill in a foreign country.

    I have even heard that it is cheaper and more “environmentally friendly” to make products out of virgin materials. To fight the deception (self-delusion?) of recycling at the local political level we need clear evidence that these programs are not doing what they claim.

    Can anyone here suggest a good source of information on the realities of recycling in America today?

    Thank you,
    Alan

  44. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Traditional plastic cups, including styrofoam, are bad, the material lasts indefinitely and is made with evil fossil fuels.

    Biodegradable plastic cups are now bad.

    Paper cups are still bad, because trees are slaughtered to make them and they’re normally lightly coated with plastic or wax for durability which affects biodegradability.

    Thus the obvious upcoming Green solution, will be “disposable” aluminum cups. The metal can be even thinner than that of a soda can as contents won’t be pressurized. Very little metal and energy used for each, they can easily be crumpled up and thrown away or recycled. For hot liquids they will sell plastic holders for the aluminum cups. They will work, be popular. They can even be declared carbon neutral as the energy used will either come directly from or can be claimed to be offset by biofuels and/or wind and solar energy. If it comes to it, they don’t even need ink on the outside, logos and warnings could be anodized or stamped on the aluminum. The eco-mental concerns are addressed, people will be happy.

    Then California will continue to “Lead the way!” in screwing up anything that works as often as possible by enacting a per-cup deposit, er, CRV. It’s aluminum and is sold holding ready-to-drink beverages, thus they’ll be justified in doing it to encourage revenues, er, recycling. And soon another good idea will go down in flames, shot to [California].

  45. JW says:

    I don’t get why you all are celebrating this finding as if it flies in the face of ‘greenies.’

    1) The researchers are saying we should collect the methane and use it instead of letting it into the atmosphere…. greenies would agree.

    2) The products are not inherently bad, but you still rejoice about a biodegradable cup having SOME negative impacts on the environment.

  46. JW says:

    Also, complaining about the money being used on this study is silly, since it was funded by P&G rather than taxpayers.

  47. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From alan on June 1, 2011 at 11:27 am:

    Can anyone here suggest a good source of information on the realities of recycling in America today?

    A good source? Well, there’s a Wikipedia entry “Recycling in the United States”, see the “Criticism” section for some talking points. That part looks a bit dated, but it’s a start.

    BTW, I hope you know how to use the “View history” tab at the top of the Wikipedia articles so you can examine previous versions. Now that it is noted on this widely-read blog that there is criticism of recycling on Wikipedia, adherents to the GHG belief (Gaia’s Holy Greenness) may decide to “correct” what they feel must obviously be mis-truths from the misinformed, and also the blackest heresy. You might have to check what that section used to say, or verify the section used to be there at all. ☺

  48. Paddy says:

    f-k.com is the URL fro Fabri-Kal. See http:f-k.com. The are the manufacturer of the cup. As to its background, owners, etc, I know nothing.

  49. Mark says:

    “EPA estimates that another 34 percent of landfills capture methane and burn it off on-site, while 31 percent allow the methane to escape.”

    The former appears rather daft. Since in effect they are spending money to waste a perfectly good fuel which is actually worth money.

  50. Old Engineer says:

    John Marshall says:
    June 1, 2011 at 2:22 am
    Two better ways to get rid of rubbish:-
    1).Burn it at high temperature and produce electricity.
    2).Place in a biodigester and produce methane to polymerise into transport fuel, which is getting cost effective given the imposed cost of petroleum.
    =============================================================
    Amen John.
    What to with our solid waste has always been a problem. In the first half of 20th century large U.S. cities had municipal incinerators. I have long felt the EPA erred when it decided that to clean up the air pollution from incinerators, municipal waste must be buried in a landfill.

    Other solutions have been proposed and used for years. Fifty five years ago Milwaukee turned it’s sewage into commercial (sterile) fertilizer called Milorganite.

    Forty five years ago jet engine manufacturers were looking at separating the compressor and turbine sections of the engine, and burning municipal waste as heat source to provide the power to generate electricity. There was even a heating value determined for “Standard American Trash.” Of course there would have to be a lot of stack gas cleanup, but that technology exists.

  51. Tom in Florida says:

    What we need for this article is a scale to show how much methane is released per cup. x biodegradable cups = 1 cow fart.
    That should put it in perspective.

  52. Galane says:

    All the technology to take unsorted MSW (municipal solid waste) and raw sewage, and automatically separate the whole mess while producing electricity, clean water and recyclable materials ready to reprocess has existed for over 20 years. There’s no need for labor intensive (thus expensive) manual sorting. Part of it involves shredding the waste into fairly uniform, small chunks to make automated sorting processes easier.

    It would also be quite easy to collect all kinds of chemicals, oils and other useful liquids by tapping the bottom of the shredders then running the ‘shredda’ through a centrifuge. Pump it into tankers and sell it to refineries to run through with the crude oil. They already do that to recycle used engine oil. When there’s no buyers for the recovered chemical cocktail, burn it. Burn it hot, really stinking hot so there’s next to nothing left.

    One process I’ve heard about mixed small amounts of clay with shredded garbage then pelletized it. Waste combustion heat was used to dry the pellets on their way to the burner. The combustion baked the pellets into lumps of porous ceramic, ideal aggregate for use in concrete because the pellets had a massive surface area for the the cement to stick to and all the holes to create a mechanical bond. It would also work better than gravel in asphalt roads, providing higher resistance to cracking.

    What hasn’t happened yet is integrating all of the processes into a single system.

    I’d love to discuss all this and more with someone who is in the WTE industry.

  53. Jimbo says:

    Talking of green products it seems that the E-coli might have been caused by organic farming methods. Manure!

    Dr Jonathan Fletcher, senior lecturer in microbiology at the University of Bradford
    “If cattle manure is used as a fertiliser, it is probable that vegetables such as cucumbers will be contaminated with E.coli and if not washed properly it would be present in sufficient numbers to cause the infection.”
    Wales Online

    And from the chap you gave us the missing 50 million climate refugees

    Deadly organic food – worse than Fukushima
    “This 2004 study found significantly higher levels of E. coli in some organic produce, although the claim that E. coli can find its way into the fibres of vegetables and thus cannot wash off seems to have been discredited. This study found a slightly higher amount of E. coli in properly managed certified organic produce, but not at a level that was statistically significant. However, in produce that used manure compost aged less than 12 months, the prevalence of E. coli was 19 times greater than farms that used older materials.”
    Asian Correspondent – 1 June, 2011

    More:
    http://notrickszone.com/2011/05/24/deadly-e-coli-bacteria-spreading-and-bringing-death-to-germany-suspected-to-originate-from-organic-farming/

  54. Galane says:

    Properly processed compost will have little to no harmful bacteria. It needs a combination of aerating and anaerobic stages to promote the bacteria that break down the organic matter while reducing or eliminating harmful bacteria.
    Grinding, drying and cooking it works faster but is energy intensive. Piled up or stored in nearly airtight containers promotes self heating to kill harmful bacteria. Periodic stirring adds air for the aerobic bacteria wanted in compost and circulates the material from the cooler outside to be heated in the middle.

    ‘Course you don’t want too large of a pile. Under the right conditions it will set itself on fire, big, stinky, hard to put out fire.

  55. Dave says:

    The Nee Jerk principle in action
    Garbage dunp study Applicants wanted:
    Apply for lifetime job – great pay and benefits – a good nose and a degree in BS / NJR – GIf-G essential.

    Green Idea + No study X Speed of Nee Jerk action plan (NJR) + Government implementation financing/grant (GIf-G ) = Product roll out.
    Results = An Eco product problem that requires more study and remedial remedy action = More Government implementation financing/grant = Remedial rectified product roll out + Observation and model study group + More Government financing/grant.

    The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

  56. Dave,
    When I worked with Mort in 1991, he was an assistant professor. He is now the head of the Department of Civil Engineering at NCSU. Yes, he built his work on the design and operations of land fills and is well aware of the EPA restrictions on such designs and operations. I suspect that most of the funding he gets for graduate students is from the solid waste industry and landfill operators, not the federal goverment. Google “Morton Barlaz” and decide whether your comment is correct or knee-jerk “garbage”.

  57. DirkH says:

    f-k.com ? Oh, i remember the day of
    PowerGen Italia dot com
    (they wrote it without a separator…)

  58. DirkH says:

    JW says:
    June 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm
    ” don’t get why you all are celebrating this finding as if it flies in the face of ‘greenies.’

    1) The researchers are saying we should collect the methane and use it instead of letting it into the atmosphere…. greenies would agree.

    2) The products are not inherently bad, but you still rejoice about a biodegradable cup having SOME negative impacts on the environment.”

    Well what we are making fun of is the GHG counting ways of the AGW “scientists”. You know, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. All these “scientists” are part of that post normal theology that busies itself with determining, well, irrelevant things. Nature won’t give a fart about a little less or more methane as it’s a pretty well-balanced system, otherwise it would have gone off a cliff a long time ago. The sciency word for this is negative feedback. So all these pseudoscientists just waste their life and the taxpayers dime while thinking of themselves as saviours of the planet. Personally, i find it highly comedic.

  59. oktomcats says:

    What are the enviromentalists going to do now? They can’t use any dispostible items because all things breakdown and releases methane into the air. What is real scary is that if the enviromentalists acually (some how) manage to eliminate CO2. All the trees that they like to hug will die. I do have an idea though for enviromentalists. If you really want to do your part in lowering CO2. Stop breathing. Oh, hold on. Nevermind. You would die and then your body will decompose and release methane into the air.

  60. Elizabeth (not the Queen) says:

    I cannot relate to those who say they would prefer to eat produce treated with chemicals than those grown with natural fertilizer. I would much rather take the risk of e. coli, which should not be a concern when fruits and vegetables are properly washed, over chemicals which have been absorbed into the flesh of the produce.

    When outbreaks of smallpox first appeared in the 1700s the vaccination was eventually discovered because of the observation that people who had worked with dairy cows were immune to the virus. Their exposure to cow pox spared them from smallpox outbreaks. Similarly, people working closely with animals and growing their own food using animal dung fertilizer will likely be exposed to pathogens that help boost the immune system.

    We have become accustomed to living in a sterilized world. Today, the incidence of many previously common types of infections is lower in chilren, while diseases like asthma are more prevalent. The theory is our hygiene practices are limiting children’s exposure and thus resistance to certain diseases. This also puts children at risk for certain diseases in adulthood.

    There is a link between pesticide use and neurological disease in humans. We have observed the consequences of chemical fertilizer run-off in oceans and fresh water lakes (dead zones). Many chemicals present in food and water are known to increase risk of many types of cancers. Arguably, the effects of these forms of chemical pollution are much more grave than global warming. Why would anyone choose these consequences over a little manure?

  61. Brian H says:

    Elizabeth (not the Queen) says:
    June 5, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Why would anyone choose these consequences over a little manure?

    Have you never heard the famous French saying, “Mange la merde et mourir!”?

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