The purpose of this module is to introduce concepts in solid waste management and provide information on all aspects of solid waste management including waste generation, waste characterization, recycling, composting, landfilling and waste-to-energy. This module provides a broad overview of solid waste management, and can be used as an introduction to the more detailed information in the subsequent modules. Although solid waste sometimes receives limited coverage in undergraduate and graduate environmental engineering and science courses, the solid waste industry is a $39.4 billion dollar industry and current issues in solid waste management focus on timely topics including resource and energy recovery from solid waste. By completing the activities in this module, you will be able to:
The purpose of this module is to learn about municipal solid waste generation, composition, and characteristics. Information provided in this module describes processes used to quantify waste generation, composition, and important physical and chemical waste characteristics.
Understanding the amount of waste generated and its composition and properties is critical to making informed decisions regarding the planning, design, and implementation of integrated waste management programs. Information associated with rates of waste generation and its composition is necessary for developing appropriate waste management design and operation strategies. Physical and chemical properties of the waste must also be known when developing effective management strategies. Physical waste properties are particularly important in sizing of management facilities and evaluating potential processing and recovery options. Understanding the chemical properties of waste is important in evaluating processing, recovery, and conversion processes.
Information provided in this module has application throughout other modules, including anaerobic digestion, collection, landfilling, and thermal conversion. This module contains information, web links, and activities that will provide the student an in depth understanding of waste generation rates, waste composition, and waste properties.
By completing this waste generation and characteristics module, you will be able to:
The purpose of this module is to introduce concepts in solid waste collection, including the types of vehicles used; issues in solid waste collection including private and public operations; modeling and characterization of solid waste collection; and alternative fuels and emissions for solid waste collection vehicles.
Solid waste collection is a very important part of management of solid waste, and waste collection can contribute up to 40% of the overall cost of solid waste management. Waste collection also contributes to the air emissions and fossil fuel consumption required to effectively manage solid waste. Understanding the process of waste collection is important for minimizing energy use and emissions in solid waste management.
The purpose of this module is to introduce the types of material recovery facilities and the equipment used in these facilities. When mixed recyclables are collected, they are taken to a facility known as a material recovery facility (MRF). At these facilities, recyclables are sorted, processed and baled for shipment to intermediate processors where they can be converted into the raw materials for new products. The design of these facilities is a critical link between the recyclable materials collected at households and businesses and the recycled products that you can purchase in a store.
The purpose of this module is to learn about municipal solid waste landfilling. Information will be provided that describes the components of a landfill, the processes which take place in a landfill, and basic landfill design. The majority of municipal solid waste both in the US and globally is placed in landfills. In developed countries, well-designed sanitary landfills are used which typically include bottom liners, leachate collection systems, leachate treatment, gas collection, gas treatment, final covers, and air and water monitoring systems. The modern landfill has evolved over the past 40 years from a long history of open dumps. Open dumps are still common in developing countries and potentially lead to adverse environmental impacts and threaten human health. Most countries have protective regulations in place that prescribe the design and operation of landfills, although they are not always enforced.
Within the landfill a complex sequence of chemical, physical, and biological processes occur that lead to waste degradation. These processes are naturally occurring but can be enhanced by controlling landfill internal conditions. The degradation processes lead to the emission of biogas and to the leaching of material from the landfill. Gas and leachate must be effectively managed to protect the environment. This module and the following two modules that address landfill leachate and gas management contain information, web links, and activities that will provide the reader in depth understanding of landfills and their role in managing of municipal solid waste.
By completing this landfill introduction module, you will be able to:
The purpose of this module is for you to learn about leachate generation from a municipal solid waste landfill. You will study leachate quantity and quality and the factors that influence leachate. You will have a practical understanding of leachate treatment.
Municipal solid waste leachate is a complex and highly concentrated wastewater. The characteristics of leachate vary over time as the waste degrades; quantity of leachate is impacted by climatic condition changes over the year. Leachate is captured by a leachate collection system required for modern landfills. Early in the life of a landfill, leachate tends to be high in biodegradable organic material. Over time, the concentration of ammonia, chloride and recalcitrant organics increases, however when low permeability or impermeable covers are placed on the landfill, leachate volume declines. Thus, the mass of contaminants declines. These variabilities create significant challenges in treating the leachate. Frequently, the leachate is co-treated with domestic wastewater. When treated on-site, generally a combination of chemical, physical, and biological treatment processes is required.
By completing this leachate generation and treatment module, students will be able to:
The purpose of this module is to learn about landfill gas, including production rates, collection rates, and emissions. You will explore landfill gas modeling and landfill gas collection system design.
As waste degrades anaerobically the organic components in the waste are converted primarily into carbon dioxide and methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas but has a significant energy content. Capture of methane provides environmental benefits as well as commercial if it is used as a fuel. Efficient capture of landfill gas is a challenge particularly prior to closure with an impermeable cover. Design of a gas management system requires accurate description of the waste characteristics, landfill age, and landfill design and operation. Models have been developed that predict landfill gas generation and contaminant emissions based on first-order kinetic degradation of waste. Using these models, the gas collection system can be designed, for example the number of wells needed, the pipe dimensions, and the layout of the collection system can be determined. In addition the model can be used to estimate the potential for energy use, the impact on the environment, and any possible health issues.
By completing the module, you will be able to:
The purpose of this module is to learn about the anaerobic digestion of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste. Information will be provided that describe the microbial processes involved during the anaerobic degradation process, methods for estimating biogas potential, and currently used anaerobic digestion technologies.
Anaerobic digestion of the organic fraction of the waste is an environmentally sustainable waste conversion or processing approach that results in the generation of methane and digested material that may be subsequently used as a soil amendment. This process is commonly applied to treat the organic fraction of waste in Europe. Anaerobic digestion is less commonly used in the United States, but is expected to increase because of an increased desire for diversion of organics from municipal solid waste landfills and the recovery of resources from this fraction of waste. This module contains information, web links, and activities that will provide the student an in depth understanding of anaerobic digestion and its role in managing of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste.
By completing this anaerobic digestion module, you will be able to:
The purpose of this module is for you to learn about different thermal conversion techniques and to ultimately perform basic waste combustion calculations. Information provided in this module describes different municipal solid waste thermal conversion processes, information about worldwide implementation of thermal conversion processes, and emissions from these processes. In addition, a framework used to perform basic waste combustion calculations is provided.
Thermal conversion of municipal solid waste is the use of heat to rapidly transform wastes into fuels, byproducts and/or power. These processes are often used for waste reduction, energy production and recovery, and diversion of wastes from landfills, representing a potentially important component of integrated waste management systems. The first incinerator in the United States was built in 1885. As of 2017, there are 86 incineration facilities in the United States that process over 28 million tons of waste. Waste combustion or incineration is the most commonly practiced thermal conversion process. Other thermal conversion processes that are being studied to process municipal solid waste include pyrolysis, gasification, and hydrothermal carbonization. This module contains information, web links, and activities that will provide the student an in depth understanding of thermal conversion of wastes.
By completing this thermal conversion module, you will be able to:
The purpose of this module is to learn about sustainability principles and how they apply to municipal solid waste management. These principles are reinforce through case studies. Sustainable solid waste management involves socially-acceptable solutions that minimize environmental impacts and cost, and incorporate waste minimization, recycling, treatment, and landfill disposal practices.
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