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[greenyes] Carbon Trading Holds Potential to Give Expanded Composting Fairer Shake

Recent news reports indicate that the market price for CO2 trading under
the Kyoto treaty is $19.74 per ton.

This is very important because, for the first time, it provides an
opportunity to better compare the cost of diversion (here through expanded
composting) to landfilling by attributing to composting the monetized
advantage of avoiding major releases of methane, a terrible greenhouse gas
with at least 21 times the warming potential of CO2.

This is because methane does not exist in garbage, but rather is
generated deep in the oxygen starved conditions of landfills from the
decomposition of organic material (mostly unrecycled paper, food scraps, and
some yard trimmings, in that order). If we divert the organics for
composting through source separation, just like we successfully do today of
bottles, cans and newspapers for recycling, then the source of the methane
generation is removed and landfills will stop being a source of something
like 12% or more of manmade climate changing gases (not the 3.1% incorrectly
estimated by EPA based upon mathematically impossible and arbitary

Carbon trading that is a part of Kyoto (not yet ratified in the U.S.)
means that the market finds the value that industry is willing to pay others
to reduce greenhouse gases in oder to meet their Kyoto obligations. With
this latest report on carbon trading's market price, we can see that the
market value of an action which eliminates the methane generated from a ton
of MSW in a landfill, should have a gross value of $47.67 per ton of waste.

My assumptions for this calculation are:

Cubic feet of methane per pound of MSW over lifetime
Turning a Liability Into an Asset (1994), p. 2-5

Pounds of methane in 1000 cubic feet of methane
Emissions of GHG in the U.S. (1997), App. F

CH4's GWP of CO2
Solid Waste Management & GHG (2002), at p. 4

CO2 Trading Value per Ton
Terra Daily May 11, 2005

Note a key part of this analysis. I have used the so-called "L sub o"
value, which is the first row of my assumptions for how much gas is
generated from a ton of waste, which is meant to reflect the total methane
potential contained in a ton of fresh MSW that is generated over decades or
longer (depending upon how long the final cover is maintained,
precipitation, etc.). Like present value calculations in finance, I believe
that whoever prevents entombing a unit of organic material in a landfill
today should be given his or her reward for a lifetime of avoided methane
emission, because, once that unit of organics is removed, that much less
methane will be generated forever. Were one to use the estimated annual
value, the numbers that follow would be reduced by a factor of about 20.

Thus, the calculation, assuming all of the landfill gases are currently
uncontrolled, is:

[2.72 * 2000 * (42.28/1000)]/2000 * 2000 * 21 * $19.74 = $47.67

EPA is now using a new, lower, L sub o value of 1.60 cf/lb instead of
the 2.72 cf/lb of methane per pound of MSW that it used to put forward. But,
that is built upon derivations that assume 75% collection efficiency while
operating. Were one to correct that adjustment to 50%, as many consider a
far more probable average capture rate on an instanteous basis (as opposed
to the optimum one it's using), the resulting value reverts back to 2.72.
But, putting all that aside, even if one uses 1.60 cf/lb., the monetized
diversion value would still be $28.04 were all gases presently uncontrolled.

Of course, since 1996, large landfills have had to install gas
collection systems, which would probably be considered the baseline
condition against which further reductions earning trading points would be
measured. EPA assumes that their instanteous efficiency is 75% (but then
goes on to combine that instanteneous value with a 21 times GWP conversion
that is calculated over a 100 year interval, which logic would suggest is a
no-no). Our estimates presently are a lifetime (100 year) rate of 19%. The
following chart is a scenario run that shows the monetized trading value per
ton of waste whose organic fraction has been diverted (since it is the
organics that are the source of the methane generated in MSW), for either L
sub o value and any of the suggested capture rates.


Capture Rate
If Lo=2.72
If Lo=1.60






And that is just the additional GHG trading value of diversion, which a
composting company would, when pricing his or her service, be able to add to
the avoided collection and disposal costs of removing organics from what we
landfill. Moreover, the amount of material that would have to be handled by
those diverting organics would be one-third less than the ton of MSW
currently handled by disposal companies, because, according to Franklin's
numbers, on average organics are 66% of MSW. On an apples to apples
comparison of diversion to disposal, then, the diversion company's costs
would be reduced by 33% as compared a disposal company.

On top of that, of course, as I've discussed before, once the amounts
diverted through recycling and yard trimming bans are added to such an
expanded effort to remove organics, more than three-quarters of waste
generation would be removed from the disposal system, and all of its
putrescible attributes. That suggests we might shift waste collection to
monthly, and only collect recyclables and organics weekly, avoiding 71% of
the waste collection costs, and internally incentivizing residents to
properly sort out organics from inerts.

Before anyone jumps into this pond with both feet, be cognizant of the
fact that the trading value for CO2 only reaches Europe's level when it is
mandated. In the U.S. today, there are no mandates, and the market price is
only around a dollar. Moreover, there are a number of hurdles to clear with
regard to figuring out protocols for insuring that organics diversion
actually achieves its claimed effects.

But, nonetheless, the potential to energize a whole new commercial wave
of expanded organics diversion, like cities such as San Francisco, Seattle
and Nova Scotia are already deeply exploring, should be understood, and,
those who want to move us to zero waste, and at the same time, dramatically
reduced the negative environmental impacts we know will come from so called
modern landfills, should begin to push the envelop to realize these


Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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