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Title: The decay of wood in landfills in contrasting climates in Australia

Highlights: • We examine decay in wood from landfills in contrasting environments in Australia. • Analysis is based on changes in chemical composition and microscopy. • Climate did not influence levels of decay observed. • Microscopy of retrieved samples revealed most of the decay was aerobic in nature. • Current default factors for wood decay in landfills overestimate methane emissions. - Abstract: Wood products in landfill are commonly assumed to decay within several decades, returning the carbon contained therein to the atmosphere, with about half the carbon released as methane. However, the rate and extent of decay is not well known, as very few studies have examined the decay of wood products in landfills. This study reports on the findings from landfill excavations conducted in the Australian cities of Sydney and Cairns located in temperate and tropical environments, respectively. The objective of this study was to determine whether burial of the wood in warmer, more tropical conditions in Cairns would result in greater levels of decay than occurs in the temperate environment of Sydney. Wood samples recovered after 16–44 years in landfill were examined through physical, chemical and microscopic analyses, and compared with control samples to determine the carbon loss.more » There was typically little or no decay in the wood samples analysed from the landfill in Sydney. Although there was significant decay in rainforest wood species excavated from Cairns, decay levels for wood types that were common to both Cairns and Sydney landfills were similar. The current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2006) default decay factor for organic materials in landfills is 50%. In contrast, the carbon loss determined for Pinus radiata recovered from Sydney and Cairns landfills was 7.9% and 4.4%, respectively, and 0% for Agathis sp. This suggests that climate did not influence decay, and that the more extensive levels of decay observed for some wood samples from Cairns indicates that those wood types were more susceptible to biodegradation. Microscopic analyses revealed that most decay patterns observed in samples analysed from Sydney were consistent with aerobic fungal decay. Only a minor portion of the microbial decay was due to erosion bacteria active in anaerobic/near anaerobic environments. The findings of this study strongly suggest that models that adopt current accepted default factors for the decay of wood in landfills greatly overestimate methane emissions.« less
Authors:
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4]
  1. Forest Science, Agriculture NSW, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Level 12, 10 Valentine Ave, Parramatta, NSW 2150 (Australia)
  2. Department of Conservation, Gothenburg University, Guldhedsgatan 5A, Box 130, SE-405 30 Göteborg (Sweden)
  3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Beef Industry Centre, Trevenna Rd., University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351 (Australia)
  4. Dept. of Civil, Construction, & Environmental Eng., North Carolina State University, Box 7908, Raleigh, NC 27695-7908 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22472524
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Waste Management; Journal Volume: 41; Other Information: Copyright (c) 2015 Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, All rights reserved.; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; ANAEROBIC DIGESTION; AUSTRALIA; BACTERIA; BIODEGRADATION; CARBON; CHEMICAL COMPOSITION; CLIMATES; CLIMATIC CHANGE; METHANE; ORGANIC MATTER; SANITARY LANDFILLS; TROPICAL REGIONS; URBAN AREAS; WOOD