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Land, Waste and Emergency Management Innovations

Year 2009 Innovations Pilots

OSWER Innovation Projects
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2009


Assessment of Gasification Technologies for Wet Wastes

Sponsor: EPA Region 1 - Fiscal Year: 2009

Partners: Maine Department of Environmental Protection, National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL), City of Stamford

Overview: This project would identify gasification technologies suitable for processing wet sludge (specifically paper and wastewater sludge) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use, freeing up land and providing financial benefits to the communities/industries. A Gasification Technology Assessment Report will be issued to summarize the anticipated benefits and limitations of each gasification system, screen out systems with limited promise and identify significant information gaps necessary to property evaluate the gasification systems.

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Automobiles and Product Stewardship: Issues and Opportunities for Material and Toxicity Neutral Personal Transportation

Sponsor: EPA Region 10 - Fiscal Year: 2009

Partners:Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR), Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation (OPEI), EPA Region 5, EPA Region 9, Region 10 States, Non-Goverment Organizations (NGO’s), Private Businesses, Universities

Overview: Across the U.S., about 450 million tons of vehicle waste is disposed in landfills each year, prompting this project to host discussions with the government to create incentives for material and toxicity neutral modes of personal transportation within the U.S. This project will also research, scope, identify and prioritize the issues and opportunities presented in their proposal by addressing the lifecycle material and toxicity impacts of automobiles on the environment.

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Project Highlights
  • The tool will allow for the comparison of policies across five different waste management strategies: PAYT, curbside food waste composting, MFH recycling, commercial waste recycling, and C&D waste recycling.
  • Municipalities will be able to select any combination of waste management policies and programs to compare and contrast tonnage and GHG results.

Decision-Support Tool and Implementation Action Plans for Municipal Level Waste Management Practices to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Sponsor: EPA Region 9 - Fiscal Year: 2009

Partners: City of Tracy, California Department of Conservation, Private Companies

Challenge: A number of municipalities have demonstrated the possibility to achieve high rates of waste diversion (60 to 70 percent or higher) by implementing robust waste management programs designed to raise levels of recycling, composting and source reduction. However, there is a large gap between most communities’ diversion rates and the small but growing number of communities successfully recycling or composting significantly greater tonnages. Greenhouse Gas Reduction credit can be a big motivator to increased recycling rates – the link between recycling and GHGs is well documented. EPA estimates that the United States recycles approximately 32 percent of its waste annually, which in terms of greenhouse gases (GHGs) reduced, equates to removing 39.6 million cars from the road.

Opportunity: More communities may show an interested in moving toward zero waste with new programs if they understand the link to these programs and GHG reduction. Municipalities need a user-friendly tool that estimates the diversion rate and GHG reductions potential over a period of time by implementing solid waste policies (recycling, composting) or programs in their communities. This tool should target communities engaged in zero waste planning, as well as those preparing climate action plans or analyzing their carbon footprint.

Approach: This project developed a spreadsheet calculator tool based on emission factors from EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM). The tool will help communities estimate (starting from their current baseline) tonnage reductions possible from implementing policies or programs related to waste management strategies, as well as estimate cumulative lifecycle GHG reductions for up to 10 years associated with the projected tonnage reductions. A companion piece to the tool will provide information on typical municipal program administration costs, along with a calculator for estimating recycling revenue potential for various materials based on user-entered tonnages.

Project Updates: Funded by EPA Region 9, the City of Tracy conducted a beta test and peer review of the draft GHG Decision-Support Tool for Recycling & Composting in summer 2012. The tool was modified based on feedback received during the beta test and is expected to be finalized in January 2013. Edits included adding national and state waste characterization percentages when local data is not available and limiting information on cost considerations within the tool because of the complexity surrounding cost estimates.

Additional Information:

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Estimating Greenhouse Gas Reductions from Waste Prevention and Recycling: What to do when it’s not covered by WARM

Sponsor: EPA Region 5 - Fiscal Year: 2009

Partners: EPA Region 9, States and Universities, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR), Local Government

Overview: While EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) helps to estimate the amount of greenhouse gas emission reductions in a waste reduction project, there are many materials and/or applications that are not included. This project seeks to find additional surrogate materials, develop clear lifecycle procedures for estimating GHG benefits for materials not included in WARM, host webinars to inform stakeholders of results and implement a process for identifying future materials and applications not included.

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Microbial Fuel Cell Technology - In Site Bioremediation of Petroleum Contaminated Sites

Sponsor: EPA Region 8 - Fiscal Year: 2009

Partners: Montana DEQ and Northern Cheyenne Reservation, South Dakota DENR and Pine Ridge Reservation

Overview: This project will demonstrate the effectiveness of Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) technology on the in-situ bioremediation of petroleum contaminated sites at three Indian Country locations. The result of MFC bioremediation technology is very green with low energy requirements and a very small carbon footprint.

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Project Highlights
  • Identified two of the six evaluated landfills as viable candidates for methane capture for electricity.
  • Landfills that have the following characteristics are better candidates for general energy recovery: more than two million tons of municipal solid waste; landfill waste is more than 80 feet deep; an impermeable cap and liner; an active gas collection system that continuously provides gas with a methane concentration of 40 percent or more; and wells that penetrate the full depth of the waste.
  • Generating onsite electricity is more feasible at landfills with an electricity demand exceeding 50 kilowatts and where the local electricity price is high (above $0.14/kWh), or where electricity availability or reliability is inadequate.
  • Sites that can generate 1 Megawatt or more of electricity through methane recovery may be good candidates for commercial electric projects. However, the electricity buy-back rate must be substantial, likely reflecting a premium for renewable electricity.

Renewable Energy Potential from Superfund Landfills

Sponsor: EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation - Fiscal Year: 2009

Partners: Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office, Region 1, Landfill Methane Outreach Program

Challenge: In 2009, approximately 17 percent of total human-related methane emissions in the U.S. came from the decomposition of landfill waste; this includes waste from Superfund landfills. Methane has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Its concentration in the atmosphere has more than doubled over the last two centuries and continues to rise annually. To counteract the impacts of methane from landfills, EPA established the Landfill Methane Outreach Program, a voluntary assistance program that helps to reduce methane emissions from landfills by encouraging the recovery and beneficial use of landfill gas as an energy resource. One area that remained unexplored was recovering methane from closed landfills located on Superfund sites.

Opportunity: Due to increasing concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and the need to identify innovative ways to supplement onsite energy needs, the Superfund program was interested in exploring the feasibility of implementing methane-to-energy systems on more National Priorities List (NPL) landfills. At the time, the program did not have baseline data on the energy generated from NPL landfills with methane-to-energy systems. Project managers needed a reliable and effective means for assessing whether the fuel energy value of the Superfund landfill gas could help offset site remediation costs or if gas could provide a revenue stream for the landfill.

Approach: Project partners assessed six NPL landfills for their ability to use methane to generate electricity for onsite use or for sale to the local utility; to replace natural gas consumption onsite; or for export to a nearby industry for fueling gas-fired technologies. Based on the assessments conducted at the six sites, project partners developed a four-step process for identifying landfills where energy recovery is feasible. Those four steps are: 1) estimate the quantity of gas that is available from the landfill, 2) evaluate the adequacy of the gas supply to meet either site energy needs or to provide a marketable energy product, 3) estimate the cost of producing energy from the landfill, and 4) evaluate options to improve project cost benefits. The four-step process became the foundation of the Landfill Gas Energy Project Assessment Tool, which aids Superfund managers in evaluating the technical and economic feasibility of recovering methane from Superfund landfills for use as an energy resource.

Project Updates: In June 2011, EPA posted the landfill gas energy final report and assessment tool online. Possible future follow-on activities include developing an implementation plan across all Superfund sites and expanding the universe of potential sites to include RCRA sites.

Additional Information:

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Sustainable Products Movement: Opportunity to Advance Materials Management Principles for Resource Conservation and GHG benefits (see entry under 2008)

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