Navigation Links
Study: Biodegradable products may be bad for the environment
Date:5/31/2011

Research from North Carolina State University shows that so-called biodegradable products are likely doing more harm than good in landfills, because they are releasing a powerful greenhouse gas as they break down.

"Biodegradable materials, such as disposable cups and utensils, are broken down in landfills by microorganisms that then produce methane," says Dr. Morton Barlaz, co-author of a paper describing the research and professor and head of NC State's Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering. "Methane can be a valuable energy source when captured, but is a potent greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere."

And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only about 35 percent of municipal solid waste goes to landfills that capture methane for energy use. EPA estimates that another 34 percent of landfills capture methane and burn it off on-site, while 31 percent allow the methane to escape.

"In other words," Barlaz says, "biodegradable products are not necessarily more environmentally friendly when disposed in landfills."

This problem may be exacerbated by the rate at which these man-made biodegradable materials break down. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines call for products marked as "biodegradable" to decompose within "a reasonably short period of time" after disposal. But such rapid degradation may actually be environmentally harmful, because federal regulations do not require landfills that collect methane to install gas collection systems for at least two years after the waste is buried. If materials break down and release methane quickly, much of that methane will likely be emitted before the collection technology is installed. This means less potential fuel for energy use, and more greenhouse gas emissions.

As a result, the researchers find that a slower rate of biodegradation is actually more environmentally friendly, because the bulk of the methane production will occur after the methane collection system is in place. Some specific biodegradable products such as bags that hold yard waste and are always sent to composting or anaerobic digestion facilities were not included in the study.

"If we want to maximize the environmental benefit of biodegradable products in landfills," Barlaz says, "we need to both expand methane collection at landfills and design these products to degrade more slowly in contrast to FTC guidance."


'/>"/>

Contact: Matt Shipman
matt_shipman@ncsu.edu
919-515-6386
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Study: urban black bears live fast, die young
2. Study: Bird diversity lessens human exposure to West Nile Virus
3. Study: Tropical wetlands hold more carbon than temperate marshes
4. Study: Wildlife need more complex travel plans
5. Study: Elderly Women can increase strength but still risk falls
6. UNC study: Text messaging may help children fight off obesity
7. Study: Did early climate impact divert a new glacial age?
8. Study: Excessive use of antiviral drugs could aid deadly flu
9. UNC study: Tinkering with the circadian clock can suppress cancer growth
10. Study: Fluid buildup in lungs is part of the damage done by the flu
11. Study: Health undervalued in reproductive rights debate
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/6/2017)... LONDON , April 6, 2017 ... Control, RFID, ANPR, Document Readers, by End-Use (Transportation & ... Energy Facility, Oil, Gas & Fossil Generation Facility, Nuclear ... Healthcare, Educational, Other) Are you looking for ... Authentication sector? ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... 5, 2017 Today HYPR Corp. , ... server component of the HYPR platform is officially ... end-to-end security architecture that empowers biometric authentication across Fortune ... already secured over 15 million users across the financial ... connected home product suites and physical access represent a ...
(Date:4/4/2017)...   EyeLock LLC , a leader of iris-based ... Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued U.S. Patent ... an iris image with a face image acquired in ... 45 th issued patent. "The ... the multi-modal biometric capabilities that have recently come to ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... CA (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... upregulate any gene in its endogenous context, enabling overexpression experiments and avoiding the ... system with small RNA guides is transformative for performing systematic gain-of-function studies. ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ComplianceOnline’s Medical Device Summit ... 7th and 8th June 2018 in San Francisco, CA. The Summit brings together current ... several distinguished CEOs, board directors and government officials from around the world to address ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... -- VMS BioMarketing, a leading provider of patient support solutions, has ... (CNE) network, which will launch this week. The VMS CNEs ... professionals to enhance the patient care experience by delivering peer-to-peer ... care professionals to help women who have been diagnosed and ... ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Disappearing forests and increased emissions are ... 5.5 million people each year. Especially those living in larger cities are affected by ... in one of the most pollution-affected countries globally - decided to take action. , ...
Breaking Biology Technology: