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Waste Manag. 2006;26(4):321-33. Epub 2006 Jan 6.

Forest products decomposition in municipal solid waste landfills.

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Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina State University, Box 7908, 208 Mann Hall, Stinson Dr., Raleigh, NC 27695-7908, USA.


Cellulose and hemicellulose are present in paper and wood products and are the dominant biodegradable polymers in municipal waste. While their conversion to methane in landfills is well documented, there is little information on the rate and extent of decomposition of individual waste components, particularly under field conditions. Such information is important for the landfill carbon balance as methane is a greenhouse gas that may be recovered and converted to a CO(2)-neutral source of energy, while non-degraded cellulose and hemicellulose are sequestered. This paper presents a critical review of research on the decomposition of cellulosic wastes in landfills and identifies additional work that is needed to quantify the ultimate extent of decomposition of individual waste components. Cellulose to lignin ratios as low as 0.01-0.02 have been measured for well decomposed refuse, with corresponding lignin concentrations of over 80% due to the depletion of cellulose and resulting enrichment of lignin. Only a few studies have even tried to address the decomposition of specific waste components at field-scale. Long-term controlled field experiments with supporting laboratory work will be required to measure the ultimate extent of decomposition of individual waste components.

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