Study: Burning plastics could recover energy now lost in landfills

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: July 9, 2014 1:37 pm ET
Updated: July 9, 2014 1:41 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Public Policy, Sustainability
Companies & Associations American Chemistry Council

Burning all of the trash now sent to U.S. landfills, plastics included, could create enough energy to power 14 million homes, according to a new study.

That also means diverting the waste sent to landfills each year to waste-to-energy power plants would power about 12 percent of the country’s total homes, the study from the Earth Engineering Center of Columbia University.

The study, sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, indicates plastics represent about 11 percent of the waste stream, the study reports.

And the total recovery rate for plastics was about 16.6 percent, a figure that includes both recycling and energy recovery, in 2011. That’s one in every six pounds.

 “These important findings show that, while we’re making progress, we have a vital opportunity to recycle and recover more of these valuable materials,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for ACC, in a statement.

Burning waste is not the only way to extract energy. And the study also said that nearly 6 billion gallons of gasoline could be created if all non-recycled plastics were diverted and converted through modern plastics-to-oil technologies.

The study’s estimate of 247 million tons of waste placed in landfills in 2011 is 112.7 million tons higher than an estimate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s because the study includes waste streams the EPA does not include in its research, including construction and demolition debris, packaging waste from imported goods, and municipal wastewater sludge, for example, according to the study.

The study also indicated the recycling rate for plastics increased by 21 percent from 2008 to 2011 to nearly 2.7 million tons.

The new study is called “2014 Energy and Economic Value of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), including and Non-recycled Plastics (NRP), Currently Landfilled in the Fifty States.”


Comments

Study: Burning plastics could recover energy now lost in landfills

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: July 9, 2014 1:37 pm ET
Updated: July 9, 2014 1:41 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Dunkin' Donuts looking at PP to replace foam cups

September 19, 2014 3:22 pm ET

Dunkin' Donuts is testing a new polypropylene coffee cup that the company believes could help boost recycling.    More

Image

Study: 75 percent of Australia's ocean debris is plastic

September 18, 2014 7:48 pm ET

About 75 percent of the trash found in the waters off Australia's beaches is plastic, with most of that coming from local sources rather than sea-...    More

Image

P&G removing PE microbeads from its Crest brand toothpaste

September 18, 2014 1:57 pm ET

After months of prodding, Procter & Gamble Co., the makers of Crest brand toothpastes, say polyethlene microbeads will be completely removed from its ...    More

Image

PET to PET boosts recycling capacity

September 18, 2014 11:14 am ET

PET to PET Recycling Austria GmbH, a bottle-to-bottle PET recycling operation backed by Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling and several beverage...    More

Image

Minnesota receives grant to help develop new bioplastics

September 17, 2014 4:08 pm ET

The University of Minnesota has received a $20 million grant to fund the development of new types of bioplastics.    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook – North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events