SAN DIEGO — A new report concludes that biodegradation in landfills of consumer products and packaging should not be encouraged, as the net harmful greenhouse gas impacts of landfill emissions are likely to outweigh the benefits of energy recovery.
The report, "Assessing the Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Biodegradation in Landfills," was released today at by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) at its Spring Meeting here. Biodegradation in landfills is a key issue for the packaging industry given increasing marketing claims that biodegradation in landfills is a benefit due to the growing use of methane-rich landfill gas for energy.
The report was intended to present the latest understanding on how materials behave in landfill environments and the mechanisms that influence biodegradation, and to provide an objective comparison of the greenhouse gas benefits of energy recovery relative to the harm of unavoidable landfill emissions.
"We are seeing more companies position biodegradation as a benefit, even for materials likely to end up in landfills where biodegradability is not a desirable trait," said GreenBlue Project Associate Adam Gendell, who led the SPC research project and authored the report. "The growing use of landfill methane as an energy source is a commendable mitigation strategy, but it has created a false sense of optimism. Energy recovery only puts a dent in the greenhouse gas profiles of landfills; overall, they are still a tremendous contributor of greenhouse gas emissions."