Ohio’s LandFill Gas / Sewage Sludge Recovery Mandate
Ohio’s solid waste landfills, both the active ones and those already capped, continue to emit an astonishing amount carbon dioxide equivalent air emissions into the environment every year. Much of this is as methane, which is 21 times as potent a greenhouse gas as is carbon dioxide.
These emissions are AFTER our larger landfills have already sucked what gas they can into flares and into renewable power generators. Unfortunately, LFG suction systems only recover 50 – 65 % of the methane released by our landfills.
While our modern landfills are carefully designed, with double liners and seepage detectors, to avoid the escape of toxic liquids, all landfills operate as vast, open-top, gasifiers. They continually generate methane, CO2, H2S, HCl, silanes, and all sorts of VOC’s – the smell you notice when close to a landfill.
Unfortunately, recycling has reduced landfill gas emissions only a little, and Ohio has no policy to recognize and reduce these emissions. Indeed, we in Ohio welcome refuse from other states with our low landfill tipping fees. LFG recovery for power generation has been installed in response to Ohio’s RPS law and it enables investor owned utilities (IOUs) to meet their renewable power mandates.
Ohio is also starting to convert its sewage sludge into renewable power, again, avoiding emissions of methane, CO2, and smelly VOCs. The technology used here has been demonstrated at OSU’s Wooster campus by Cleveland-based Quasar, and installed at the Akron sewage treatment plant to replace a notoriously smelly composting operation with great success. It is also used on our livestock farms to convert manure to clean power – this avoids the heavy pollution of our streams as well as carbon dioxide emissions.
But the RPS law by itself cannot achieve control of LFG and sewage sludge emissions – it was not designed for that purpose. Ohio can only avoid GHG emissions if both landfill gas recovery and sewage sludge conversion are mandated. To avoid the legislation of technology – lawmakers don’t do a good job of designing equipment – a simple carbon emission fee can be imposed, leaving ingenious engineers to minimize those emissions. Every ton of MSW tipped can be charged $20 / ton of potential CO2(equivalent), a standard “carbon cap” based on the methane and CO2 generated. The landfill operator will receive credit for methane and CO2 which is recovered for re-use, and sewage plant operators will similarly receive credit for their recovery of methane, etc. Ohio can issue “carbon credits” to landfills and sewage treatment plants for the first years, with credits declining to zero to encourage recovery of GHGs.