A literature review reveals that landfill cover soils oxidize more methane than guidelines suggest
MADISON, WI â€“ Landfilled waste decomposes in the absence of oxygen and results in the production of methane. Landfills are classified as the second-largest human-made source of CH4 in the U.S. Additionally, landfill gas contains numerous non-methane hydrocarbons that are either volatilized directly from waste materials or produced through biochemical reactions during waste degradation.
Microbial methane oxidation reduces the emissions of methane and other volatile hydrocarbons from landfills. Determining the importance of this process is one of the major uncertainties in estimating national or global CH4 emissions from landfills. Landfill gas that is not collected passes through landfill cover soils on the way to being released to the environment. Bacteria in the soil consume methane and other volatile hydrocarbons that are produced by decomposition in the underlying waste by reacting it with oxygen.
A value of 0 to 10% oxidation has been recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories. Currently, for regulatory purposes the USEPA has recommended a default value for landfill cover CH4 oxidation of 10% due to the uncertainty involved and the lack of a standard method to determine oxidation rate.