Jan. 24 — One of the dirtiest and most demonized portions of the municipal waste stream may soon be diverted from its centuries-long decomposition site: landfills.Developing a recycling solution for used disposable diapers, a biological amalgam of complexity, has been a top priority of the global research and development team at TerraCycle Inc., a Trenton, N.J.-based company whose mission is to create innovative solutions for any waste stream headed to the landfill.

TerraCycle´s team of scientists, led by Ernie Simpson, global vice president of research and development, is about to put a clothespin on its formula that will render dirty diapers into a material suitable for plastic lumber, pallets and outdoor furniture. Continue reading


Topographic change due to landfill operations has been observed based on some of the features delineated by the elevation differencing and thresholding process. The resulting altered landforms from landfills differ from other anthropogenic activities in that much of the deposited material is not rock and soil that had been previously excavated but man-made material that has been transported to the deposition site.

The figure below shows the Sunshine Canyon landfill in Sylmar, California, an example of topographic change due to landfill operations. The operation and expansion of this landfill continues to be a controversial topic in the local area. The close proximity of the landfill site to a major transportation artery is a reminder that visual impacts of human geomorphic activities can be significant.

the Sunshine Canyon landfill in Sylmar, California
Topographic surface change resulting from landfill operation (Sunshine Canyon landfill in Sylmar, California). The images are NED shaded relief (upper left), SRTM shaded relief (upper right), aerial photograph (lower left), and perspective view (lower right). Change polygons (blue = cut; red = fill) have been overlaid on each image. The arrow indicates the view direction (toward the southwest) for the perspective view.


The Los Angeles City Council has agreed to pay for a study on urban landfills using funds from a trust fund created a decade ago by the operators of Sunshine Canyon landfill. The $100,000 to be used is the last of the money remaining in the $1 million fund created by Browning Ferris Industries, the landfill’s operator.

The study will look at ways the city can deal with landfills and the city’s trash over the next 20 years. Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn has promised to stop using Sunshine Canyon for residential trash disposal by 2006 and will fight the use of urban landfills. There is a June 2005 deadline for the city to decide the fate of its contract with Sunshine Canyon.


Biodegradable products, such as disposable cups and utensils, may be doing more harm than good in landfills, according to researchers from North Carolina State University.

The study, which was published online in Environmental Science & Technology, found that so-called eco-friendly products release a powerful greenhouse gas as they break down.

The problem is attributable to the rate at which biodegradable materials break down, the study found. According to Federal Trade Commission guidelines, products marked as biodegradable should decompose within “a reasonably short period of time” after disposal.

But that rapid deterioration may be environmentally harmful, the researchers found.

Federal regulations do not require landfills that collect methane to install gas collection systems for at least two years after the waste is buried. If materials break down and release methane too quickly, the study said, much of the methane will likely be emitted before the collection technology is installed. This means less potential fuel for energy use and more greenhouse gas emissions.

The researchers found that a slower rate of biodegradation is more environmentally friendly because the majority of the methane production will occur after the methane collection system is in place.

“Methane can be a valuable energy source when captured, but is a potent greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere,” said Morton Barlaz, co-author of the study and a professor and head of N.C. State’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, in a statement. “In other words, biodegradable products are not necessarily more environmentally friendly when disposed of in landfills.”


The city of Los Angeles will receive more than $500,000 for environmental and community programs and pay “competitive” trash disposal rates under an agreement finalized Friday to reopen the controversial Sunshine Canyon Landfill above Granada Hills.

The agreement also calls on the owner of the dump, Browning-Ferris Industries Inc., to drop a $400-million lawsuit against the city, according to sources and city reports. Continue reading