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Landfills, Bioreactors, and Composting

What is a landfill?

What is a bioreactor?

Besides methane production why would one want plastics to biodegrade in a landfill?

Do ENSO plastics biodegrade in compost?

What is better for the environment professional composting or bioreactors?

Will oxo-degradables and PLA degrade in a landfill?

Isn’t composting of PLA supposed to be good?

Landfill Gas Collection



What is a landfill?

A landfill, also known as a garbage dump is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment . Historically, landfills have been the most common methods of organized waste disposal and remain so in many places around the world.

There are two basic landfill operations for handling waste disposal; dry tomb and bioreactor.  A “dry tomb” sanitary landfill approach to municipal solid-waste disposal is when waste is placed and maintained in dry conditions to minimize biodegradation, potential leachate and gas generation and release. A concern of the “dry tomb” landfill is that the waste may pose a threat to public health and the environment well beyond the prescribed 30-year postclosure maintenance period because the natural decomposition process is retarded.

In a bioreactor landfill, controlled quantities of liquid are added and circulated through waste to accelerate the natural biodegradation and composting process of the waste. The bioreactor landfill process may significantly increase the biodegradation rate, such that the waste may be stabilized in a relatively short period of time (5-10 years).

Read more - http://www.epa.gov/landfill/

What is a bioreactor?

A bioreactor landfill operates to rapidly transform and degrade organic waste. The increase in waste degradation and stabilization is accomplished through the addition of liquid and air to enhance microbial processes.  By efficiently designing and operating a landfill, the life of a landfill can be extended by as much as 20 years.  Landfill gases such as methane are fuel sources which are then used for clean energy production.

  •   Decomposition and biological stabilization in years vs. decades in “dry tombs”
  •   Lower waste toxicity and mobility due to both aerobic and anaerobic conditions
  •   Reduced leachate disposal costs
  •   A 15 to 30 percent gain in landfill space due to an increase in density of waste mass
  •   Significant increased LFG generation that, when captured, can be used for energy use onsite or sold
  •   Reduced post-closure care

Read more: http://www.bioreactor.org/

Besides methane production why would one want plastics to biodegrade in a landfill?

Currently in the US approximately 75% of all bottles produced end up in landfills.  These bottles take hundreds of years to biodegrade and end up taking up unnecessary space which eventually cause landfills to reach capacity and new landfills to be created.

It makes environmental sense if we can put an additive into existing plastic resins which will not impact the physical properties of that plastic, if recycled will have no negative impact on the recycle stream, and if landfilled will naturally biodegrade creating methane which can then be used as a source for clean inexpensive energy.

Do ENSO plastics biodegrade in compost?

Yes, products enhanced with ENSO will biodegrade in any active microbial environment; this includes both aerobic (compost) and anaerobic (landfill) environments. The timeframe for complete biodegradation in either environment is determined by a number of factors. However, ENSO plastics are not designed to biodegrade in the short timeframe 90 days which is required for professional composting facilities. We recommend that the bottles are first and foremost recycled and if not possible are placed into a landfill environment.

What is better for the environment professional composting or bioreactors?

There have been a number of studies conducted to compare the environmental impact of professional composting vs. landfill bioreactors.  Since there are variations in both composting and landfill garbage collection the below paper was chosen because it addresses the best and worst case scenarios.  The potential environmental impacts associated with aerobic composting and bioreactor land filling were assessed using the life cycle inventory (LCI) tool.  The results are fairly the same across those studies performed which results in emissions to air and water that contribute to human toxicity are greater for the composting option than for the landfill option and the landfill option yields greater energy savings due to the conversion of the landfill gas (LFG) to electrical energy.

Read more: Aerobic composting vs bioreactor land filling

Will oxo-degradables and PLA degrade in a landfill?

No, neither of these products will degrade in a landfill (anaerobic) environment.  Oxo-degradables require oxygen to breakdown which is not found in anaerobic landfill environments and PLA requires steady heat of 140F which landfills run between 80F – 90F at about 12 feet deep.

Isn’t composting of PLA supposed to be good?

The PLA industry uses the term “from nature, to nature” meaning that the product is created from renewable corn and is able to be composted back into inert humas (soil).  This concept sounds good because we have always been taught to compost however the compost environment that PLA requires just does not exist in the US. 

Calls to the list of composters which are identified on the NatureWorks website reveal that less than 1% will take PLA.  There is also no current infrastructure in place to get PLA material to composting facilities other than by taking it there yourself, this is not a true commercially viable solution.

Landfill Gas Collection

Landfills are the largest single human source of methane emissions in the United States, accounting for nearly 23 percent of all methane sources. Landfill gas is generated during the natural process of bacterial decomposition of organic material contained in landfills and is a source for clean inexpensive energy.

Read more: Landfill Gas Collection

How do I contact ENSO Plastics for additional Information?

Contact Information:

Telephone
866-936-3676 or
602-639-4228

Fax
602-639-4228

Email
sales@ensoplastics.com

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