How Waste Management Innovations Are Improving Landfill Sustainability

With the energy transition upon us, decarbonization is at the forefront of regulatory action and corporate responsibility. Renewable natural gas (RNG) is an energy source converted from various waste feedstocks into pipeline-quality methane, which can be used to reduce a company’s carbon footprint.

Methane is an invisible, odorless gas that accounts for roughly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is 80 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. Methane is being released into the atmosphere at higher-than-expected rates from sources like landfills, food waste, wastewater treatment facilities and dairy farms, according to a study by The Science Journal.

Landfills, for example, produce methane when organic waste decomposes without oxygen. RNG is produced when the raw gas is captured and processed to remove unwanted contaminants such as water, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide gas. The gas is “renewable,” as it is derived from the waste byproducts and upgraded into 99% pure methane that can be injected into a gas pipeline and converted into electricity, compressed natural gas, or used to create hydrogen.

An advantage of RNG compared to other sources of natural gas is its ability to provide carbon offsets and help companies lower their carbon intensity scores. In addition, RNG lowers methane emissions that are released into the atmosphere since many of the feedstocks used to create RNG occur naturally as part of the decay process of waste.

In the last decade, energy consumption has grown by approximately 2% annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Unlike other renewable alternatives such as wind and solar, RNG offers a consistent and reliable energy source. The infusion of RNG into the energy infrastructure can support the rising demand for renewable fuel and helps reduce reliance on fossil fuel-based natural gas without adding costly infrastructure upgrades. RNG is nearly identical in molecular makeup to traditional natural gas. In addition, RNG can be used as fuel for equipment such as generators, heaters, boilers and gas turbines.

Managing landfill emissions by converting methane to RNG

Given that methane is one of the primary contributors to climate change, there’s an increasing need to manage these emissions. Landfills are required to report methane emissions quarterly to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. However, the study by Science, which was recently the topic of an article published in CNN, shows the reporting systems are missing large methane sources from landfill operations. On average, “methane emission rates are 1.4 times higher than those being reported to the GHGRP,” according to the report.

Many landfills and biomass facilities are already taking some action to convert the methane into energy and fuel generation. Traditional management solutions convert the methane into CO2. While less volatile, carbon dioxide is still responsible for a greater proportion of climate change. Fortunately, innovations in waste management are helping landfills operate more sustainably through investment in technology that converts the methane into RNG.

The federal government, for example, is incentivizing the conversion of methane to RNG for the use of fuel. Under the renewable identification number (RINs) program, each gallon of RNG injected into a shared gas pipeline receives a RINs, which serves as a form of currency within the industry.

According to a report by Boston Consulting Group, demand for RNG is expected to increase by a factor of 10 by 2040 in the United States, of which 60% will shift to demand from gas utilities. Gas offtake is driven by state utility regulators looking to achieve carbon reduction targets, the report said. As the demand rises, the need for RNG production equipment will increase exponentially.


Stark Tech is a market leading technology provider, delivering turnkey solutions with master systems integrationequipment, and service, and building analytics that drive sustainability goals and keep facilities on their mission. Stark Tech also manufacturers large, skidded equipment that decarbonizes and reduces greenhouse gas emissions through renewable energy sources and by converting waste into renewable natural gas.

Peter Glauber is the director of RNG Solutions for Stark Tech bringing more than 40 years of experience in compression, power generation, landfill, and chemical processing. Glauber served as president of Glauber Equipment from 1995 to 2022, when the company was purchased by Stark Tech.

This article was originally featured on the Buffalo Business First website. To view the original article, click here.