Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Management

EM—March 2019: In this month's waste-themed issue, readers are first brought up to speed on a major crisis disrupting recycling efforts throughout the United States and Canada. Then, we explore newly emerging concerns over risks to air quality and ground water from landfill operations, and how to address those risks.

by David H. Minott, QEP, CC

Perhaps you've heard the rumblings over the past year or so of the turmoil that is disrupting recycling programs
throughout the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, the reports of upheaval are not exaggerated. Until last year,
China was the main purchaser of many of the recycled materials collected in the developed world, especially recyclable paper and plastics. However, China abruptly stopped accepting this recyclable material last year. This, in many cases, has left our recycling programs without a viable purchase market, creating an existential threat to those programs.

The first two articles in this issue further explain the nature of the threat, then address what can be done to adapt. In
the first article, Susan Robinson explains the basics of the Chinese import ban, its effects on recycling programs worldwide and locally, and addresses adaptive measures that can be implemented to ensure that recycling remains vibrant in the long term.

Next, Marc Rogoff, Jeremy Morris, and Bill Gaffigan relate further details of the Chinese import ban and its impacts,
specifically on U.S. recycling programs, then suggest a variety of adaptive measures—technical, economic, and policy.

Switching our focus slightly, the following three articles address emerging concerns with emissions to the air and potentially to groundwater from landfill operations. In their article, Matthew Estabrooks and Stephen Zemba describe the negative effects of siloxanes—a silica compound—present in landfill gas in degrading the performance of landfill-gas-toenergy engines at landfills, and causing problems with emission levels of formaldehyde and other pollutants.

Using landfill gas beneficially as a fuel to generate energy at landfills is a sustainable, carbon-reducing practice; however, it also results in some emission to the air of the carcinogen, formaldehyde. Heather Little and Stephen Zemba demonstrate how a site-specific health risk assessment of the formaldehyde impacts can be used as an alternate method for compliance demonstration, specifically at those landfills where the conventional approach shows ambient formaldehyde limits would be exceeded.

The final article this month, by Stephen Zemba, Russell Abell, and Harrison Roakes, acquaints us with pollutants of emerging concern that are present specifically in landfill leachate. This is important because leachate contaminants can ultimately contaminate drinking water supplies, and new requirements to control these pollutants will impose further cost and legal burdens on landfill owners.

EM readers are invited to explore this waste-themed issue and get updated on important new developments in waste
recycling and modern landfill management.

Read the full March 2019 issue of EM