Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Jan 1;41(1):35-41.

Environmental implications of municipal solid waste-derived ethanol.

Author information

Department of Civil Engineering, University of Toronto, 35 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1A4, Canada.


We model a municipal solid waste (MSW)-to-ethanol facility that employs dilute acid hydrolysis and gravity pressure vessel technology and estimate life cycle energy use and air emissions. We compare our results, assuming the ethanol is utilized as E85 (blended with 15% gasoline) in a light-duty vehicle, with extant life cycle assessments of gasoline, corn-ethanol, and energy crop-cellulosic-ethanol fueled vehicles. We also compare MSW-ethanol production, as a waste management alternative, with landfilling with gas recovery options. We find that the life cycle total energy use per vehicle mile traveled for MSW-ethanol is less than that of corn-ethanol and cellulosic-ethanol; and energy use from petroleum sources for MSW-ethanol is lower than for the other fuels. MSW-ethanol use in vehicles reduces net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 65% compared to gasoline, and by 58% when compared to corn-ethanol. Relative GHG performance with respect to cellulosic ethanol depends on whether MSW classification is included or not. Converting MSW to ethanol will result in net fossil energy savings of 397-1830 MJ/MT MSW compared to net fossil energy consumption of 177-577 MJ/MT MSW for landfilling. However, landfilling with LFG recovery either for flaring or for electricity production results in greater reductions in GHG emissions compared to MSW-to-ethanol conversion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Chemical Society
Loading ...
Support Center