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Improving understanding of carbon storage in wood in landfills: Evidence from reactor studies

Journal article
Authors Fabiano Ximenes
Charlotte Björdal
Amrit Kathuria
Morton Barlaz
Annette Cowie
Published in Waste Management
Volume 85
Pages 341-351
ISSN 0956-053X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of marine sciences
Pages 341-351
Language en
Links doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.01.00...
Keywords Bacteria; Carbon; Decay; Landfill; Methane; Wood
Subject categories Climate Research, Environmental Sciences, Wood Science, Soil Science, Microbiology

Abstract

Approximately 1.5 million tonnes (Mt) of wood waste are disposed of in Australian landfills annually. Recent studies have suggested that anaerobic decay levels of wood in landfills are low, although knowledge of the decay of individual wood species is limited. The objective of this study was to establish the extent of carbon loss for wood species of commercial importance in Australia including radiata pine, blackbutt, spotted gum and mountain ash. Experiments were conducted under laboratory conditions designed to simulate optimal anaerobic biodegradation in a landfill. Bacterial degradation, identified by both light microscopy and electron microscopy, occurred to a varying degree in mountain ash and spotted gum wood. Fungal decay was not observed in any wood samples. Mountain ash, the species with the highest methane yield (20.9 mL CH4/g) also had the highest holocellulose content and the lowest acid-insoluble lignin and extractive content. As the decay levels for untreated radiata pine were very low, it was not possible to determine whether impregnation of radiata pine with chemical preservatives had any impact on decay. Carbon losses estimated from gas generation were below 5% for all species tested. Carbon losses as estimated by gas generation were lower than those derived by mass balance in most reactors, suggesting that mass loss does not necessarily equate to carbon emissions. There was no statistical difference between decay of blackbutt derived from plantation and older, natural forests. Addition of paper as an easily digestible feedstock did not increase carbon loss for the two wood species tested and the presence of radiata pine had an inhibitory effect on copy paper decay. Although differences between some of the wood types were found to be statistically significant, these differences were detected for wood with carbon losses that did not exceed 5%. The suggested factor for carbon loss for wood in landfills in Australia is 1.4%. This study confirms that disposal of wood in landfills in Australia results in long-term storage of carbon, with only minimal conversion of carbon to gaseous end products.

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