Solid Waste Treatment as a High-Priority and Low- Cost Alternative for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation
- Cite this article as:
- AYALON, O., AVNIMELECH, Y. & SHECHTER, M. Environmental Management (2001) 27: 697. doi:10.1007/s002670010180
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The increased concern about environmental problems caused by inadequate waste management, as well as the concern about global warming, promotes actions toward a sustainable management of the organic fraction of the waste. Landfills, the most common means to dispose of municipal solid waste (MSW), lead to the conversion of the organic waste to biogas, containing about 50% methane, a very active greenhouse gas (GHG). One unit of methane has a global warming potential of 21 computed for a 100-year horizon or 56 computed for 20 years. The waste sector in Israel contributes 13% of total greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions for a time horizon of 100 years (for a time horizon of 20 years, the waste sector contribution equals to more than 25% of total GHG emissions). The ultimate goal is to minimize the amount of methane (CH4) by converting it to CO2. This can be achieved by physicochemical means (e.g., landfill gas flare, incineration) or by biological processes (e.g., composting, anaerobic digestion). Since the waste in Israel has a high organic material content, it was found that the most cost-effective means to treat the degradable organic components is by aerobic composting (investment of less than US$ 10 to reduce emission of one ton CO2 equivalent per year). Another benefit of this technology is the ability to implement it within a short period. The suggested approach, which should be implemented especially in developing countries, could reduce a significant amount of GHG at relatively low cost and short time. The development of a national policy for proper waste treatment can be a significant means to abate GHG emissions in the short term, enabling a gain in time to develop other means for the long run. In addition, the use of CO2 quotas will credit the waste sector and will promote profitable proper waste management.