Landfills in the area evoke so many negative feelings for many people – the smell, the trash – it’s no wonder so many communities are struggling to find new locations for them. Working to create a better environment and improve community perceptions, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are investigating ways to address pollution from gas emissions from landfills using an innovative flooring system and by analyzing its impact on the community.
An academic collaboration led by Jongwan Eun, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Yunwoo Nam, associate professor of community and regional planning, began three years ago with a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. The team’s objective was to test a new landfill flooring system consisting of a geomembrane coextruded with a layer of ethylene vinyl alcohol sandwiched between two internal layers of low density polyethylene. This new system has been tested against traditional coating systems consisting of low density polyethylene and no coating in recent field tests.
Reducing gas emissions is particularly important for the environment, as landfill gases are not only the third largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States, but they include dangerous and noxious gases that are annoying. often neighboring landfills, resulting in strained community relations, regulatory action and, in some cases, costly litigation for communities. The poor perception of landfills by the community also has a negative impact on the selection of future waste management sites, as residents adopt NIMBY (Not in my garden). This research is of particular interest not only to environmentalists, but also to planners, legislators and community administrators who manage current and future sites.
Mitigation of gas emissions was a major component of the research project, in addition to collecting, analyzing and evaluating data regarding the potential impact of the new system on a given community using modeling of gas dispersion. Using a geographic information system and engineering data, the team identified and assessed the limitations of the simulation results to determine to what extent gases would impact a given community. Knowing the distance traveled by gas with this new coating system is an important factor to take into account for any municipal administrator or stakeholder interested in the implementation of the new technology.
While testing for the new blanket is ongoing, preliminary results are promising. The new system was found to reduce gas emissions by 20 times the normal amount and increase gas collection by three times during laboratory and field tests in Butler, Nebraska.
As part of the field test, the team assessed the impact of the new landfill cover on the Butler community. Using GIS and data collected through the state of Nebraska’s enterprise content management system, the team was able to measure the area affected by gas emissions by analyzing the addresses of residents’ complaints. GIS the complaint mapping verified the accuracy of the gas dispersion modeling.
The team also analyzed the profitability of the new technology.
“Although initially more expensive to install than the traditional approach, based on our simulation for year six and seven, there is a turning point where you will see a return on your investment,” Nam said.
In addition to the faculty, Sunah Moon, a master’s student in community and regional planning, and Yuan Feng, a doctoral student in civil engineering, participated in the research and data collection.
“As a doctoral student. student, I loved working on this project and plan to continue my research in the future, ”said Feng. “This project, as the world’s first on-site application of EVOH geomembrane, has built a solid foundation for my career. I hope to continue to engage in research focused on reducing landfill gas emissions after graduation and contribute my efforts to protect the environment.
Based on the team’s research, this new approach to landfill coatings has promising results. With fewer gas emissions, higher gas collection, and a better return on investment, the method may soon gain traction in communities looking to upgrade their systems.
“For my perspective, my long-term goal for this research project, I wanted to provide information that others can use for a good alternative to control and manage greenhouse gases from landfills, which will be a huge deal. benefit to the environment, ”Eun mentioned.
For Nam and his many research interests in the planning industry, one of the main goals is to create healthier communities. This is certainly a growing struggle for community planners and city administrators as Nebraska’s population grows, as an increased population means more waste.
“If you change the perception of waste treatment facilities, residents won’t be so opposed to having them built in their neighborhoods,” Nam said. “This is a fine example of NIMBY and how this negatively impacts the planning and overall health of a community. But I hope the work we are doing here today will make a positive difference. “