Waste Characterization Handbook: Understanding Municipal Waste Streams to Develop Data-Driven Methane Mitigation Strategies


Sector:Biogas, Municipal Solid Waste
Size:1 MB

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the Global Methane Initiative developed the Waste Characterization Handbook and accompanying Excel tool to help decision-makers and solid waste professionals plan and conduct waste characterization studies to understand the composition of waste streams. Waste characterization data can be used to inform improved waste management planning and implementation and measure methane mitigation from these strategies.

  • The Waste Characterization Handbook provides information for city decision-makers and solid waste professionals to plan and conduct a waste characterization study. The handbook includes recommended activities and resources to help plan an appropriate type of study for specific site conditions; conduct field activities to collect the data; and analyze the data to help make informed solid waste planning decisions.
  • The Waste Characterization Planning and Data Tool is an Excel-based tool that streamlines data entry and provides instant graphics to visualize the data entered during the study.

Resulting waste characterization data can be used in existing GMI tools to better understand organic waste management and methane mitigation options:

  • Data on the average composition of collected waste (e.g., food waste, paper, cardboard, textiles, plastic) can be entered into the Solid Waste Emissions Estimation Tool (SWEET) to understand the emissions impacts of various management strategy and technology (e.g., composting, anaerobic digestion (AD), waste combustion, recycling).
  • Data on specific organic waste types and quantities (e.g., mixed food waste, coffee grounds, bananas) can be entered into the Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Screening Tool to assess AD project feasibility. The AD Screening Tool outputs include annual biogas and digestate production, methane emissions reductions, and potential end uses of biogas.
  • Data on the annual disposal rate (metric tons/year) of a city or community can be input into the Landfill Gas (LFG) Screening Tool. The tool provides an estimate of how much LFG can be collected at a dumpsite or landfill and provides initial recommendations on whether that fuel supply is likely sufficient to support a modest-sized LFG Energy (LFGE) project. LFGE project types include combusting LFG directly to produce heat (e.g., for industrial applications), using LFG to generate electricity, and - in some cases - converting LFG into compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel vehicles.