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RE: [greenyes] The environmental impacts of recycling according to the London Daily telegraph
Jeff,

I just wanted the readers to know that when you say you used the 
"... ridiculously overly conservative assumptions in favor of disposal
such
as that 75% of landfill methane is captured by landfill gas collection
systems..." that in fact our national EPA routinely uses this number
without any scientific proof that such a number is even close to
reality.  Recent research by Peter Anderson shows that a lifetime gas
capture rate for a landfill is probably much closer to 25% than 75%.
(Peter's research will be going public sometime soon.)

Does this number matter?  Well, considering that landfill gas (50%
methane) is one of the top Greenhouse Gases on the planet today...YES !!
Add to that the unknown public health impacts related to the chemical
composition of the "other 50%".  I wouldn't be surprised that if someday
living near an off-gassing landfill is as scary as living near the
stacks of a trash incinerator.

Keep up the great work Jeff !!!

Eric Lombardi
Executive Director
Eco-Cycle, Inc
Boulder, CO
303-444-6634
www.ecocycle.org
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeffrey Morris [mailto:jeff.morris@no.address] 
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2003 12:09 PM
To: greenyes@no.address
Subject: [greenyes] The environmental impacts of recycling according to
the London Daily telegraph

Those of you interested in some actual life cycle data on the
environmental
benefits of recycling, developed through a project with the Washington
State
Department of Ecology using life cycle assessment data from the EPA's
WARM
and MSW DST tools and databases, can download the Mar/Apr (Vol. 4, No.
2)
issue of my newsletter The Monthly UnEconomist from our website at
zerowaste.com.  Access and downloading is free, just follow the
instructions
to get your password.  The article is entitled "The Pollution Prevention
and
Biodiversity Enhancing Benefits of Curbside Recycling." It analyzes
environmental impacts/benefits of curbside recycling versus both
landfill
and waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration.

The Swedish analysis would have to really bend some numbers to get the
results claimed in the London Daily Telegraph news article.  The
environmental advantages of recycling shown in my article are calculated
using ridiculously overly conservative assumptions in favor of disposal
such
as that 75% of landfill methane is captured by landfill gas collection
systems, and that WTE substitutes for only fossil fuel energy generation
while the upstream energy conservation from using recycled materials in
place of virgin materials to manufacture products substitutes for the
average mix of power generation sources.  Because close to 40% of
electricity generation comes from nuclear and hydro, which have no
greenhouse gas emissions, this latter assumption in the EPA's WARM and
MSW
DST models gives WTE a 167% advantage for every BTU of energy generation
offset by burning MSW versus offsets from conserving energy by using
recycled materials in place of virgin materials.  And still curbside
recycling, including the energy to run trucks and the pollution from
those
trucks, wallops WTE and landfill.  That's why I say the Swedish study
must
have really bent the numbers because the EPA models almost lie on their
backs to favor disposal and they still show recycling beats landfilling
and
WTE by a large margin for (1) energy conservation, (2) reduction in
greenhouse gas emissions, (3) reductions in acidifying gases emissions
(e.g., sulfur dioxide), (4) reductions in eutrophication emissions (that
promote e.g., algae blooms in waterways), and (5) reductions in
emissions of
substances toxic to humans.

Resource Recycling ran a very summary version of my article in its
August
2002 issue. That article is titled "Measuring the advantages of curbside
collection."

What has as yet not been adequately developed is an environmental
assessment
of organics diversion that includes the benefits of using compost to
reduce
the usage of petroleum based fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and
fungicides and to improve the water retention in soils thereby reducing
use
of this increasingly scarce natural resource.  I'm convinced based on
the
scattered bits and pieces of evidence I've assembled, and that others
have
shown me they've assembled, that the results for organics diversion will
be
similarly strong.  But we need to develop that analysis definitively as
part
of our evidence for continued expansion of recyclables and organics
diversion programs and policies.

Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D.
Economist
Sound Resource Management - Durham
2219 Whitley Drive
Durham, NC 27707

WA: 360-319-2391
NC: 919-401-4444
jeff.morris@no.address
www.zerowaste.com










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