Are there carbon and nitrogen sinks in the landfills?

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Keyword: Engineering and Technology, Environmental Engineering, Other Environmental Engineering, Teknik och teknologier, Naturresursteknik, Annan naturresursteknik, Waste Science and Technology, Avfallsteknik
Publication year: 2014
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 12 Responsible consumption and productionSDG 11 Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure
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The management of sanitary landfills after closure is an important engineering, economic and sustainability issue. The society needs sustainable methods for landfilling from an environmental perspective but it has to be cost-effective and affordable for a society as well. Compared with inorganics, carbon and nitrogen are more reactive. It is important to identify the time needed for them to achieve the limit values of leachate emission (i.e., the length of aftercare period). However, does it mean that the environmental impacts have been minimized after the active aftercare period? Especially at low temperature, the decomposition rate and release rate of carbon and nitrogen are lower; so the leachate emission concentrations are lower and it is easier to achieve the emission limit values. In these conditions the residual carbon and nitrogen remaining in the landfill are higher, but according to the results this is not a practical problem. In the degradation of stable humic compounds, carbon and nitrogen sinks are formed. Their fraction in the organics seems to be comparable with waste treated in mechanical-biological way and has impact as a sink. The humification process seems to be affected by temperature, but more knowledge is still needed like total balances of humic substances. It is necessary to discuss the performance of carbon and nitrogen within aftercare (active aftercare) and after aftercare (passive aftercare). The solutions should be designed accordingly from both environmental and economic considerations.


Yu Wang

School of Engineering, Aalto University, Espoo
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Markku Pelkonen

Luleå tekniska universitet; Geovetenskap och miljöteknik
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Juha Kaila

School of Engineering, Aalto University, Espoo
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