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RE: [greenyes] Decomposition Rates

Hi Rose ~

This is a very challenging question that you ask. There are lots of sites on
the Internet that will provide data on decomposition rates (especially for
litter), but, in my opinion, there are largely guesses. Rathje's article
"Beyond the Pail. Biodegradation?" in the March/April issue of MSW
Management ( is interesting on
the factors influencing the degradation of materials, but is only part of
the story, in my belief.

Recently, I have been serving on a committee developed by our state
Department of Natural Resources to look at when is the waste in a landfill
"stable", or to use the European terminology, at "final storage quality".
Researching the European literature, I found a number of studies that look
at the fate of the material over a 10,000 year period. My favorite
assessment of the situation, however, is from a report by the Austrian EPA,
published in 2001. On the first page of the text, in a footnote, it
apologizes for only using a 10,000 year time frame for the study, since in
reality, time frames of over 100,000 years should be used, but the
uncertainity is just too great for an accurate assessment.

In conclusion, while some materials will degrade in a landfill, some of the
materials in effect never degrade.

If you want, I would be glad to send you the bibliography that has been
developed for the DNR landfill stability committee. Unfortunately, the best
reports are only in German. I would highly recommend the reference Baccini,
Peter (editor), The Landfill. Reactor and Final Storage. Swiss Workshop on
Land Disposal of Solid Wastes. Gerzensee, March 14-17, 1988, 438 page, even
though it is 16 years old.

Best wishes,

John Reindl, Recycling Manager
Dane County, WI

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Rose Niemi [mailto:rose@no.address]
> Sent: Monday, April 26, 2004 10:55 AM
> To: 'GreenYes'
> Subject: [greenyes] Decomposition Rates
> Good Monday Morning,
> Can anyone suggest a reliable source on the internet
> regarding decomposition
> rates in landfills?
> Thanks in advance for your assitance.
> Take care,
> Rose
> Rose Niemi
> Public Program Specialist
> Merced County Association of Governments
> 369 West 18th Street
> Merced CA 95340
> 209-723-3153 ext. 315
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