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Fun Facts - Aerobic Bioreator Landfill System


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Aerobic Landfill Bioreactor System (ALBS) Endless - Sustainable - Regenerative
We have our United Nations # AM0083

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Fun Facts - Aerobic Bioreator Landfill System

  1. 1. LOGO While effective at storing waste, modern landfills do little to address waste sustainability. Instead, they are large civil/biological “reactors” which promote the anaerobic degradation (without air) of wastes, potentially releasing toxic gases, foul odors, and harmful liquids into the environment. As a solution, the rGreen Consortium introduces an innovative biotechnology-based approach that can be combined with conventional waste excavation and recycling methods to not only help landfill owners recover airspace, but also provide: - millions of dollars in additional tip fees; - new carbon offset revenues; - preclude the need from having to remediate local groundwater; - significant post-closure care (PCC) savings; - delay or avoidance of landfill capping; - reduced Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and odors; and, - a new approach to waste sustainability. Combining these benefits, this approach can be considered a ‘disruptive innovation” within the solid waste sector that may change the entire industry paradigm. The Problems with Landfills Today’s modern landfills are integral part of managing the millions of tons of waste that are generated each year in the US. Using time-tested engineering principals and construction techniques, landfills are an effective system for storing waste. Yet, a big problem looms. In effort to keep rainwater from mixing with the trash and forming toxic liquids, high-strength plastic liners and covers are placed beneath and over the waste. However, this causes a “dry-tomb” effect, where the waste decays under anaerobic conditions. The by-products of this type of organic decay is toxic leachate, foul odors, and Greenhouse gases (GHGs), including methane. Although these liner systems are required by law to protect the environment, they are instead a potentially false sense of security as even the US EPA admits that these protective systems can leak. In the meantime, millions of dollars are spent to monitor and care for the landfill as it settles and collapses, as expected, with potentially millions more possibly being spent if leachate and/or landfill gas (LFG) penetrate these liners and leak into local groundwater. The Aerobic Landfill Bioreactor System Building on successful smaller projects in the US, Canada, Japan, and China, the Aerobic Landfill Bioreactor System (ALBS) is an innovative biological treatment system which can address these issues. Instead of building large “tombs” of waste and storing it waste for hundreds of years, an ALBS can be attached to the landfill at any stage and operated (injecting air and water into the waste) to rapidly treat and degrade the waste at a rate up to 30x times faster than the normal anaerobic decay process and completing the treatment process in approximately 3 to 5 years. The rGreen Landfill – A Needed Disruption for the Solid Waste Industry
  2. 2. 2 Once the wastes are aerobically (with air) “stabilized,” where many hazardous chemicals are reduced to acceptable levels, the ALBS blowers, pumps, instruments, are then detached and either salvaged or reused at a later date. Now safer to handle, the waste can be excavated, as opposed to waste that has undergone natural anaerobic decay. Further, as much of today’s waste contain a higher percentage of plastic, glass, and metals, there are more opportunities for these wastes to be either reused, used as fuel for energy projects, reused (soil) or recycled where the mined materials “dirty” recyclables are combined with “clean” recyclables generated from curbside programs, and thus moving closer to meeting community recycling goals. Aerobic Landfill Bioreactor System, Tennessee (USA) Not only does the ALBS offer an alternate landfill operating scheme, but it is the only known approach, other than mining, that directly addresses the problem with older landfills- the buried waste itself. In other words, it is not a “downstream” indirect technology that “waits” for the release to impact soil and/or groundwater, rather it is a pro-active means of addressing the problem before it happens. Instead of using various soil and/or groundwater treatment techniques, and/or chemical odor control systems (mists and sprays), the ALBS uses natural biochemical processes which treats the waste in- situ and in an accelerated manner, thereby reducing the potential for soil or groundwater contamination sooner and minimizing long-term management costs. Further, the ALBS improves leachate quality, as seen in many aerobic wastewater treatment systems, as the injected air also comes in contact with the leachate inside the landfill. Last, the ALBS can reduce leachate volume, due to the elevated internal waste temperatures caused by the ALBS. At many sites, 100% of the leachate that is generated has been captured and returned back to the ALBS, as moisture is needed to ensure biological activity. This helps eliminate off-site leachate disposal (and transportation risks) and lowers the potential for impacts to the environment should a release occur from the liner. More on the ALBS can be found at US EPA’s website at /aerobic.html Leveraging a 2,000-year old Waste Treatment Method Although similar to waste composting, the ALBS is a disruptive innovation in that it is the basis for an entirely new approach to landfilling and recycling, both cornerstones of the current waste hierarchy and solid waste industry. Instead of storage, composting is conducted on a much larger scale, treating millions of tons of waste. Here, the ALBS leverages the shape, construction, and configuration of a landfill as a biological reactor, yet following current landfill design and operational regulations. Also, it is built of commercially- available components. Once degradation is complete, the entire landfill, contents, cover, are consumed in the landfill mining/system removal process. As much material and components as possible are saved and used again to repeat the building of a duplicate landfill and a re-application of an ALBS. Resembling a conventional landfill gas (LFG) collection and recovery system, the ALBS consists of vertical wells installed through the landfill cover and into the waste. These wells are connected to PVC or HDPE header piping and then to blowers and pumps. However, instead of pulling LFG from the landfill under a vacuum, the ALBS instead injects air and liquids into the waste. Immediately, the respiring and facultative bacteria indigenous to the waste begin mineralizing the degradable matter under aerobic conditions. At the same time, methanogens, the microorganisms that produce methane as a metabolic byproduct, begin to die off since oxygen is toxic to them. As long as there is oxygen, a moisture source (recovered leachate is preferred), and degradable waste to consume, the aerobic bacteria will remain active, and the ALBS will function, breaking down degradable matter much faster than
  3. 3. 3 before. In the end, a stabilized material remains consisting of humic material and soil (or “fines”) as well as inorganic and inert materials. Also, waste-borne pathogens are eliminated, many by 100%, due to internal exothermic (heat) production, around 165 degrees F., all controlled as part of ALBS operations. Aerobic Landfill Bioreactor System, Changchun (China) While waste degradation is the key goal, the ALBS is also recognized by the US EPA as a “Tier II” landfill gas (LFG) reduction approach. It is also is registered with the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as “Avoidance of landfill gas emissions by in-situ aeration of landfills --- Version 1.0.1, Number AM0083” and is used as the basis for the Alberta (CA) Aerobic Landfill Protocol Ex-Post ALBS Operations In contrast with to conversion of old landfills into parks and golf courses, there are many more options for landfill reuse, as a greater degree of risks to workers and future tenants are reduced. Ex-post ALBS operations can include the redevelopment of the landfill into commercial and/or residential property. For example, construction materials can be brought in and compacted over the stabilized site, readying the site for vertical development. At present, there are ALBS projects underway in China and Asia that are redeveloping former landfills into residential high-rise residential towers. rGreen’s Sustainable Landfill As many landfill owners search for new ways to gain “new” air space, some have turned to waste mining. Here old wastes are excavated, along with enormous volumes of soils (>50% in some cases), with inert recyclables extracted and sold or replaced and compacted back into new lined cells. However, mining can only be accomplished after natural anaerobic decay has ended in order for the waste to be safely handled by landfill operators. On the other hand, the ALBS can be used to de-toxify these hazards, and at a faster rate. Afterwards, waste mining can be performed to remove and separate the soils and recyclables, using screens and trommels in the same manner. The recyclables are either then recycled, used for energy purposes (e.g. high BTu value), or placed into an inert (less expensive) landfill. The previously excavated fines (soils) are used a daily cover for incoming wastes. Combined together, these approaches are the basis for rGreen’s “Sustainable Landfill,” (SL), see figure below, where millions more of tons of waste than originally permitted can cross the scales (adding new revenues) and be placed and compacted into the landfill. As one is filled, the others experience either aerobic treatment, mining and recycling, or reconditioning in preparation for the next filling. Therefore, instead of using the permitted airspace just once, it can be refilled/reused/resold repeatedly. Moreover, the entire originally permitted landfill footprint may not be needed. Instead, the SL’s fill-degrade-mine-refill cycle may only require a percentage of the original footprint and capacity, where, for example, using only 4 or 5 smaller “sub-cells.” This could reduce landfill footprints by dozens or acres, freeing up such property for more useful commercial or urbanization purposes, now that the landfill produces less odors and is less of a risk. Aerobic landfills are “expected to become a prime candidate technology for landfills in the U.S. and elsewhere that cannot generate LFG in sufficient quality or quantity to economically recover the associated energy.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Washington, D.C., Emerging Technologies for The Management and Utilization of Landfill Gas (1998) EPA 600/R-98- 021, p. 39
  4. 4. 4 The Sustainable Landfill Note that in each of these phases, methane production is minimized, therefore the total amount of GHGs avoided will not just be for time period it takes to fill the permitted airspace one time, but rather the volume of GHGs that would be generated for decades. This can provide communities not only great relief from having to manage LFG for long terms, but potentially new revenues from the sale of carbon offsets. Presented in Table 1 is a summary of the many potential ALBS/SL benefits. As compared to many other technologies, the ALBS and SL epitomizes waste sustainability. Not only will this combination of new technology and proven waste management techniques lessen impact on the environment, but it will also increase a community’s sustainability efforts when it comes to waste management. This may even adjust US EPA’s waste hierarchy as we know it. Table 1. Summary of Potential ALBS/SL Benefits Description Potential ALBS/ SL Benefits Operations - The airspace is reused repeatedly whereby normal fill operations continue, yet degraded waste removal is introduced as a new operation. - Less material and haul costs for daily cover (from borrow pit) - Potential for increases in cover settlement Recycling - Waste is treated aerobically reducing pathogens and VOCs. Thus, the waste is safe to remove, handle, and can be blended into other recycling streams. - Increased recycling lowers energy costs- further. - Recycling excavated materials helps meets community recycling goals (e.g. 75%) Cell Reuse/ Airspace - Cell reuse extends landfill life and delays or minimizes the need for extending or building new landfill sites in the future Description Potential ALBS/ SL Benefits Landfill Footprint - Instead of filling up the entire permitted footprint, only 4-5 smaller cells, thus a smaller operational, may be needed. - This frees up the balance of land for infill, greenspace, and/or urbanization efforts. Closure/Post Closure Care (PCC) - If the landfill remains open longer, PCC and its 30-year costs are delayed or avoided. - Lower risk to HHE, sets the case for relief from prescriptive PCC (less frequent monitoring, fewer parameters) Waterways/ Lakes/ Groundwater - Reduced leachate production and improved leachate quality reduces potential impact to groundwater and other water resources. Reducing Carbon Footprint - A new method of reducing hazards to the public may override contracts for producing LFG, especially if there are net positive economics. - Heavy equipment and truck emissions may increase due to new mining, hauling, and recycling activities. Improvements in Air Quality - 90%+ reduction in methane emissions; - 50% less carbon dioxide emissions. - More efficient reductions as compared to LFG generation, collection and destruction. Commercial/ Industrial Property - Reduced leachate and odor production as well as less risk to groundwater improves potential for site redevelopment, infill and urbanization initiatives. Residential - Fewer odors complaints. Land Planning - Less landfill footprint used, fewer landfills needed makes more land available for more useful purposes. Treatment - Less reliance on leachate treatment at WWTP is avoided as it reapplied to the waste as part of liquids requirement for ALBSTM operations. Quantity - Up to 100% elimination due evaporative effects of ALBSTM Quality - Lower BOD, VOCs, arsenic, lead, metals (due to neutral pH) Sludge Disposal - Sludge disposal into landfill increases ALBSTM effectiveness as it adds more organics and nutrients to the waste and thus the decay process. Treatment Capacity - Increases volumetric availability for premium users (industrial) - Less BOD, VOCs reduces WWTP treatment load and surcharges, Reliance on LFG Users - Decreased as methane production is avoided. - This Good news for landfills with insufficient volumes of LFG or not economical/ practical Renewable Energy (Solar) - More industrial room for solar farms. See Land Planning.
  5. 5. 5 Operations - Increased recycling lowers energy costs further. - Recovered BTU materials can be used as energy supply. (cement kilns) - Increased energy costs for blowers. Tipping Fees/ Market Impacts - Given the potential cost savings and new revenues, the life-cycle costs of landfill operations could be less. New Revenues (carbon credits, recycling) - Potentially more revenues per ton of waste as compared to LFG-to-energy sales. Risk Reduction - Reduced leachate production, improved leachate quality, less odors reduces potential impact to groundwater and associated costs of risk. (Insurance) Departmental Costs (landfill, WWTP) - Potentially lower tipping fees. - Increased competiveness for local waste. - Lower odor and leachate management costs. Funding/ Grants - Many grants available for local, national, and global sustainability, recycling, GHG reduction, biotechnology, research initiatives Odors/ Environmental Impact - Fewer odors means fewer complaints? Greenspace/ Healthy Neighborhoods - Reduced risk from landfills could change public perceptions, increase land values. Civic Engagement - Public hearings would introduce new solutions. Confidence in Government - Increased due to openness to new approaches, Legislative - Responds well to new ideas and approaches, especially if conducted in compliance with existing regulations. Education - Workshops to learn about how biotechnology can help solid waste issues. Employment - Increased recycling, increases jobs. - Additional operator training on ALBSTM Community - Green landfills forms a community bond Tourism - Attractive to public and academia Future Responsibilities - Reduce potential of landfill remediation by future generations Example Case: Orange County/ City of Orlando, Florida Located east of Orlando, the Orange County Solid Waste Management Facility (OCSWMF), the largest publicly owned municipal solid waste landfill in Florida, began operations in 1971 and currently accepts approximately 2,000 tons of waste per day, much of it from The City of Orlando. The landfill site encompasses 5,000 acres and accepts Class I (putrescible) waste, Class III (construction and demolition) waste, yard waste, and waste tires. The landfill footprint is approximately 252 acres, comprising of Cells 9 through 12 and is permitted for approximately 30 million cubic yards (22 million tons) of waste. Regarding LFG production, it is predicted that the peak LFG generation will be approximately 11,550 scfm occurring in 2031. If an SL is presented, current contacts could be renegotiated, as protection of the public health may override economic benefits. A Place for New Technologies and New Thinking Along with phasing in commercial and multi-family recycling standards programs, one of the key waste management strategies proposed by the City, for example, is to “support the development of technolog[ies] that make it easier to recycle materials.” As the City recognizes that policies and education alone will not achieve its targeted 75% waste diversion goal, they also believe that “emerging technologies will enable communities to recover recyclable materials before they are buried.” As such, the City’s Plan proposes that it and its key partners implement innovative technologies that “mechanically extract recyclables from landfill-bound solid waste streams and utilize organic waste for energy production.” Moreover, the Plan also places an emphasis on advancing composting. Lastly, the City recognizes that older landfills have impacted soil, groundwater, and surface water “as material leaks out of the landfill and into these areas” and that these landfills do not meet today’s standards. Although not specifically discussed in the Plan, both the City and the County are exploring options for mitigation these impacts. With these goals in mind and in regards to the potential ALBS/SL benefits listed in Table 1, presented in Table 2, is a summary of a few of the potential economic impacts an ALBS/Sustainable Landfill application could have on OCSWMF operations and/or the City’s integrated solid waste management (ISWM) planning.
  6. 6. 6 Table 2. Estimated Economic Benefits from ALBS/ SL Application- Orange County Description Status Quo Using ALBS/SL Notes Permitted Airspace Value $825M $4.15B Assume 22M tons @ $37.50./ton Assume SL reuses airspace 5x Increased Revenue from GHG sales $0 $396M Assume $3/ per ton CO2Eq x 5 reuses (22M tons x 1.2 x $3/Co2Eq x 5) Avoided Capping Costs ($93M) $0 Assume 31 acres x $300,000 per acre Avoided PCC Costs ($86M) ($43M) Assume 50% reduction ($86M/2) over 30 years Sale from Recycled Materials Baseline Baseline + 20% Assume 20% increase in sale of recycled goods Value of Land not used for landfilling $0 $63M Permitted Footprint is 252 acres. Assume 50% is used for SL. Assume surrounding land worth $0.5M per acre At present, new, advanced decision support tools (DSTs) are being developed that will allow Orange County and other municipalities to completely re-think their ISWM planning and sustainability efforts, especially with technologies such as the rGreen’s Sustainable Landfill. For more information, please contact the rGreen Consortium at: Mark P. Hudgins at or R.J. Randall at