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Climate Change Contacts

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Climate Change in the Pacific Southwest
— Waste Management

waste management life cycle
How waste management impacts greenhouse gas emissions | Larger Image
wastewise logo

Waste management is key to reducing carbon emissions. The decomposition of solid waste in landfills results in the release of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Burning wastes and the transportation of waste to disposal sites produces carbon dioxide emissions. Recycling and sustainable manufacturing reduce the use of fossil fuels to obtain raw materials and produce new items.

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Waste Reduction and Recycling Reduces CO2 Emissions

A new EPA report suggests that way Americans procure, produce, deliver and dispose of goods and services — what the agency refers to as “materials and land management” — accounts for 42% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practicies (PDF) (98 pp, 1.5M)

Waste Energy Recovery Registry

On July 23, 2009, EPA published a rule which proposes to establish the criteria for including sources or sites in a Registry of Recoverable Waste Energy Sources (Registry), as required by Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The agency is also proposing the Survey processes by which EPA will collect data and populate the Registry. The proposed rule would apply to major industrial and large commercial sources as defined by EPA in the rulemaking.

Electronics Stewardship Programs

EPA Region 9 is engaged in electronics stewardship across several federal and EPA programs. Electronics Stewardship is the responsible purchasing, use, and disposal of electronic devices over their lifecycle. Electronic devices can be a significant part of your environmental footprint.

The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), is a system developed through the Green Electronics Council (GEC) to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. The tiered criteria include and exceed Energy Star qualifications. Region 9 is currently working with the GEC to expand the range of products included in EPEAT. Through Executive Order 13423, all federal facilities must now lease or purchase 95% of their computer equipment listed on EPEAT.

ewaste warehouse
EPA Region 9 clears out its warehouse in July 2007, safely recycling 26 pallets of mixed electronic waste. The cumulative stewardship of EPA's electronics resulted in greenhouse gas reductions equal to taking 136 cars off the road.
ewaste warehouse

The Federal Electronics Challenge (FEC) is a partnership program that encourages federal facilities and agencies to purchase greener electronic products, reduce impacts of electronics during use, and manage obsolete electronics in an environmentally safe way. The FEC network has developed a range of online tools to promote these goals, including checklists for selecting a responsible recycler and an Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator to quantify the cumulative benefits of these practices. Region 9 has been an "FEC Champion" since the inception of this program and has successfully promoted these goals to over 20 federal facilities in the Region since 2002. In 2008, the cumulative greenhouse gas reduction benefit from participating federal facilities was over 2,250 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). EPA Region 9’s own electronic stewardship efforts that year reduced lifecycle emissions by over 670 metric tons of CO2e, as well as other environmental and cost benefits.

Plug-In To eCycling's Logo

Plug-in to eCycling is EPA’s outreach program to consumers, governments, manufacturers, and retailers to promote responsible reuse and recycling of electronic equipment. Through Plug-in’s efforts, some computer and TV manufacturers, and electronics retailers offer product takeback programs and sponsored recycling events. Plug-in has issued a national TV Recycling Challenge to supplement and promote the converter box and recycling solutions for the Digital Television transition. In 2008, the cumulative national results through Partner collection and recycling efforts were 68 million pounds of used electronics, a 43% increase on the previous year, which prevented the equivalent average annual greenhouse gas emissions of 16,700 cars (91,500 metric tons CO2e).

Additional Resources
  • EPA R9 maintains an eCycling website including Regionally-sourced FAQs and state program resources
  • EPA’s CRT Rule lists some of our compliance information.
  • EPA created the WAste Reduction Model (WARM) to help solid waste planners and organizations track and voluntarily report greenhouse gas emissions reductions from several different waste management practices.

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total municipal solid waste generation 2007

Total Municipal Solid Waste Generation in 2007 Before Recycling

Organic wastes include yard trimmings, wood, food scraps, paper, and some textiles. (Source: Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 1995-2012 (PDF))

Region 9 and the Resource Conservation Challenge (RCC) strategically focuses on organics/food waste as it represents approximately 25% of the municipal solid waste stream sent to landfills. The aim is to encourage States, Tribes, and other partners to steer more organics to productive reuse in composting and anaerobic digestion. Eliminating organics from the landfill reduces the amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, created due to anaerobic decomposition.

Region 9 funds various projects to help advance the composting market by providing information on composting to consumers and local governments, researching the implementation of uniform labels for various compostable products, and building capacity for the compost market. For specific information on Region 9 projects, please visit y.

For more information on composting, visit EPA Region 9 Composting Web site.

Additional Resources

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Anaerobic Digestion

East Bay Municipal Utilities District Addresses Climate Change by Recycling Food Waste

ebmud anaerobic digester

With help from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, the East Bay Municipal Utility District is pioneering a method of generating renewable energy using food scraps. Feature Story/Video/Social Media Links

Anaerobic digestion is the break-down of biosolids in an anoxic (or oxygen lacking) environment. Through this process, the organic matter is broken down and methane is emitted, allowing digestion plants to harvest this methane for renewable natural gas production.

Region 9 worked with East Bay Municipal Utilities District to determine the benefits and limitations of co-digesting food waste with biosolids at their main wastewater treatment plant. Co-digestion produces more biogas than biosolids digestion and reduces the mass of the waste by 65-75% compared to 30- 45% for biosolids.

Additional Resources

Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP)


The Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) works with landfills to harvest the methane emitted for natural gas. Like anaerobic digestion, landfill waste emits methane which can be captured and used for renewable methane production. Many large landfills in the US are currently capturing this methane but flaring it to mitigate climate impact, since methane has 22 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. LMOP works with candidate landfills to encourage facilities to use the methane as a renewable fuel rather than flaring it off.

California, through AB32 has proposed control measures to increase capture of methane in landfills in California. California landfills emit approximately 1-2% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions per year or 5.8 Million Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalents (MMTCO2E).  The new requirement will mandate that all municipal solid waste landfills that received waste after Jan 1, 1977 with over 450,000 tons of Waste in Place (WIP) will have to install gas collection and control systems, unless they qualify for exemption. Municipal solid waste landfills with less than 450,000 tons of WIP must comply with reporting requirements. For more information on the California program, see CARB Landfill Methane Control Measure.

The EPA is working with landfills that are subject to this new requirement to encourage landfills to install energy generation technologies in addition to the capturing systems so that the methane can be used as natural gas rather than flared with resultant CO2 emissions.

Stimulus funding through the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds Exiting EPA (disclaimer) (totally $1.6 billion) may be available for these projects. More information on how to apply for this money will be posted to this web site as it becomes available.

EPA's national LMOP Web site provides more info on landfill gas energy projects, including online tools that can help assess how economically feasible it is to install this technology, given the size of the landfill, the type and rate of trash input, and its location.

Alameda and Palo Alto Team Up to Provide LMOP Energy

In 2007, EPA LMOP selected Alameda Power & Telecom and the City of Palo Alto as their Energy Partners of the Year. These two local utilities in California teamed together for this project in order to meet the cities' renewable energy goals. These projects add to Alameda's impressive portfolio that consists of 80% renewable energy, while the projects helped Palo Alto to achieve its renewable energy goals. The two cities now have a number of landfill gas-to-energy facilities in place, with Bueno Vista, Ox Mountain, and Kelly Canyon landfills producing over 18 megawatts of renewable electricity.

Contact Cara Gillen

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