The waste and recycling industry is continuing to reduce its release of greenhouse gases – even as waste volumes increase, according to the latest greenhouse gas inventory released by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"Our industry has been diligent and has invested in new equipment and facilities to reduce emissions of methane and other gases from landfills. Furthermore, we have turned potential emissions into an important energy source," said Environmental Industry Associations (EIA) President and CEO Sharon H. Kneiss. "We are environmentalists in every sense of the word. The many companies responsible for this reduction should be proud of this accomplishment."
Despite the fact that we are landfilling 6 percent less than 20 years ago, we have greatly improved our ability to reduce methane emissions. As a result, these emissions declined by 30 percent during the same period. This has happened as a result of converting methane to energy, flaring of methane emissions and oxidation techniques.
There are 594 landfill gas-to-energy sites in the United States that generated 1,813 megawatts (MW) of energy and 312 million standard cubic feet a day (mmscfd) of gas. This is enough energy to directly power 1 million homes and heat 729,000, respectively.
Methane gas collected at landfills is used to power home, businesses and government facilities across the nation. Some of it is even used to fuel garbage trucks. Landfill-gas-to-energy projects and other forms of biomass-derived energy make up the almost half of the nation's renewable energy supply, almost the same amount as is derived from solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower combined.
Landfills are the third highest producer of anthropogenic methane in the United States. Natural gas recovery and ruminant animals, such as cows, produce more methane emissions than landfills.
The gases generated from landfills, composting, and incineration were approximately 122 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2Eq) in 2011.
The Environmental Industry Associations (EIA) is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling services industry through its two sub-associations, the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) and the Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC). NSWMA and WASTEC members conduct business in all 50 states and include companies that collect and manage garbage, recycling and medical waste; equipment manufacturers and distributors; and a variety of other service providers. For more information about how innovation in the environmental services industry is helping to solve today's environmental challenges, visit environmentalistseveryday.org/environmentalists.