Decomposition in Landfills: Impacts on Gas & Leachate


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The major biodegradable components of municipal solid waste include paper, food waste and yard waste. All of these materials contain cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, with cellulose and hemicellulose responsible for most of the methane produced in landfills. When these wastes are buried in landfills, a complex series of chemical and biological reactions is initiated. The end products of anaerobic biological decomposition in landfills are methane and carbon dioxide. This course will describe the microbial decomposition process in a landfill and relate it to gas production and leachate quality. This foundation will then be used to describe the LandGEM model and ways in which it can be adjusted to consider the effects of waste composition and gas collection efficiency.

Upon completion of this course, the attendee will be able to:

  • Define the biological conversion of municipal solid waste (MSW) to methane
  • Discuss the process of Solids Decomposition and Carbon Storage
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the Stoichiometric Methods for Estimation of Methane Potential
  • Demonstrate options for Landfill Gas Modeling

Course Length

76 minutes

Additional information



Presenter Biography

MORTON A. BARLAZ, Ph.D., P.E. is Professor and Head of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at North Carolina State University. He received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin. He has been involved in research on various aspects of solid waste since 1983. Over this time, he has conducted research on biological refuse decomposition, methane production, and the biodegradation of hazardous wastes in landfills. He has participated in two state-of-the-practice reviews of bioreactor landfills. His research forms the basis for much of the work done to assess the impact of landfills on methane emissions inventories. Dr. Barlaz is also recognized for his research on the use of life-cycle analysis to evaluate environmental emissions associated with alternate solid waste management strategies. Dr. Barlaz is the author of over 90 peer-reviewed publications and has made over 200 presentations at conferences throughout the world. In 1992 he was awarded a Presidential Faculty Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Barlaz has been active in service throughout his career. He is an Associate Editor for two journals (Waste Management and Journal of Environmental Engineering) and serves as co-chair of the bi-annual Intercontinental Landfill Research Symposium. He has served as chair of the Government Affairs Committee and the Lectures Committee for the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors. Finally, he serves on the Science Advisory Committee for the International Waste Working Group. P.E. license number 018626 (North Carolina).


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