As Stephan notes,
newspapers don't degrade much in the anaerobic conditions of a landfill due to
the high lignin content and therefore sequester carbon. The same is true for
wood. But, as Doug points out, looking at a life cycle, other materials also
have a GHG impact, with aluminum being especially significant on a per ton
The issue of methane
from landfills is a complicated question, as noted in an email exchange several
months ago on GreenYes and it is difficult to reach hard and fast conclusions.
Recently, for example, the Norwegian government reassessed their estimates and
came out with significantly lower estimates based on better data. Just last
week, they put on the Internet a report with an appendeix showing the
revisions. I haven't finishing reading these materials in detail, but a quick
read leads me to believe that they are still too high, since they do not include
the inhibiting effects of lignin in paper and wood. The reports are in English,
near the bottom of the web page (where it says Les mer:)
Dane County, WI
Keeping in mind that there
is a great deal of uncertainty regarding GHG emissions from landfills
including the difficulty of simulating landfills in the laboratory, as it
happens the placement of some products in anaerobic landfills actually serves
as a significant carbon sink. Newspaper is one of those products.
Its long-term carbon storage actually serves to counterbalance methane
emissions and represents a net sink! Methane emissions from office
paper, on the other hand, apparently far exceed carbon storage making it a net
source of GHG.
The following were referenced:
Barlaz, M. A.
Global Biogeochemical Cycles 1998, 12(2), 373-380.
Micales, J. A.; Skog, K.
E. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation 1997, 39(2-3),
Eleazer, W. E.; Odle, W. S.; Wang, Y.; Barlaz, M. A. Environmental
Science and Technology 1997, 31(3), 911-917.
Camobreco, V.; Ham, R.;
Barlaz, M.; Repa, E.; Felker, M.; Rousseau, C.; Rathle, J. Waste Management
& Research 1999, 17(6), 394-408.
Weitz, K.; Barlaz, M.; Ranjithan, R.;
Brill, D.; Thorneloe, S.; Ham, R. International Journal of Life Cycle
Assessment 1999, 4(4), 195-201.
Freed, J. R.; Choate, A.; Lee, E. In
Combustion Canada: Calgary, Canada, 1999, p 11.
No doubt the whole
extraction through manufacturing process has the negative externality of
anthropogenically produced GHGs emissions associated with it.
Doug Koplow wrote:
It may be true that organic fractions are the largest source of fugitive methane emissions from landfills. However, if you look at the greenhouse gas impacts of the full commodity production cycle -- not just emissions from disposal -- discarding metals and plastics rather than recycling them is also a big deal.
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Stephan Pollard <firstname.lastname@example.org> 02/11/05 08:24PM >>>
Indeed it is laudable. For those concerned about methane emissions from
landfills its paper (and foodscrap and fugitive yardwaste) in oxygen
starved environments that produce it, not aluminum, steel, or plastic.
Steve Apotheker wrote:
The paper recycling rate calculated by the American Forest & Paper
Association is slightly different than the recycling rates calculated
by EPA or by the states and local governments. AF&PA's rate includes
pre-consumer paper, while EPA does not. For example, in 2001 the
paper recycling rate was 48.3% according to the AF&PA, while the EPA
Also, EPA and AF&PA both depend largely on surveys of manufacturers
with some estimates of imported scrap paper that arrives along with
imported products. State and local governments use waste composition
studies that perhaps more accurately indicate paper recycling rates at
least for their jurisdiction. Thus, differences in the absolute paper
recycling rates of AF&PA, EPA and various governments can partly be
explained by methodological differences.
However, there is no denying that the increase in AF&PA's paper
recycling level over the last decade or so has been almost exclusively
due to increased post-consumer paper recovery so their rate of
improvement is very real (not due to methodological manipulation) and
Christine McCoy <email@example.com> 2/11/05 1:18:00 PM >>>
To be clear, the Paper Recycling rate is officially 50.3%
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