When Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is sent to a landfill, it is buried in the ground where it decomposes and releases potent greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Once a landfill is full, it is capped to limit water from seeping in and carrying contaminants into the environment. However, the decomposition of waste in the landfill and the generation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continues.
Even for communities with ample space to commit to landfills, sending Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to landfills is environmentally unsustainable because of the greenhouse gas emissions. Some landfills are equipped with methane recovery systems. However, even these landfills still generate significant greenhouse gas emissions since often only a fraction of the gas is collected and used to produce electricity.
To combat greenhouse gas emissions, we must develop strategies to divert MSW from landfills and limit the associated environmental impact. Waste-to-Energy (WtE) is currently an underutilized waste management option that, along with recycling and composting efforts, could help significantly reduce the volume of waste sent to landfills. WtE uses MSW to generate clean, renewable electricity, which is then sold to utilities and distributed to residential and commercial consumers.