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It's not all landfills, it's a small collection of landfills. And if they aren't fixed, even if everybody went zero waste today, those landfills would still be emitting large amounts of methane.

Proper landfill design & operation ensures the landfill is aerated, which keeps decomposition primarily aerobic which produces little methane. A poorly designed or operated landfill with little aeration will switch to aerobic metabolism, which is what produces large quantities of methane.






> even if everybody went zero waste today, those landfills would still be emitting large amounts of methane.

If everyone went zero waste then nothing would be added to the landfill, and its methane production would taper out to nothing as a result.


> Formation of methane and CO2 commences about six months after depositing the landfill material. The evolution of gas reaches a maximum at about 20 years, then declines over the course of decades. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landfill_gas

From the top charts for image search "landfill gas chart", suggests methane(CH4) vents heavily for 3-5 years, then a long taper.


If every reseller proposed a discounted "no packaging" option, people would produce less waste. If providing such an option was mandatory or even just incentivized, more resellers would propose it.

Consumers do have some power, but they are not the only ones and we should demand an effort from all parts of society there.

On the other hand, I doubt it is plastic waste that produce methane, an organic byproduct. Maybe food wastes are at fault. In which case your enemy is not overpackaging and may actually be your (temporary) ally


This is something I've always wondered (being someone who is heavily into compost), since the byproduct of aerobic decomposition is CO2, which is actually worse? Aerobic, or Anaerobic? Both produce GHGs, Methane is the worse one, but obviously if it was produced in smaller quantities then it would be more beneficial. Also what lasts longer in the atmosphere? CO2 or Methane?

Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas, and it naturally degrades into CO2 in the atmosphere. Burning methane it on the ground, even not for energy, helps mitigate the warming effect, because it is that much more potent than CO2.

I get that it's more potent, i wrote that in my comment. But if composting aerobically releases 50 times more CO2 than composting anaerobically does methane, then composting anaerobically is the better option.

The CO2 from compost came from surface organic matter, which got it from the air in the first place. It is a net zero proposition (discounting potential transit costs which may or may not apply).

The rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere come from burning hydrocarbons which originate from below the earth's surface, where they were not part of the carbon cycle for millions of years. Burning faster than natural sequestration below the surface is reaponsible for the overall rise.

All else being equal, methane has a stronger greenhouse effect, but breaks down, unlike CO2 which is only sequestered by plants.


I get that it's net zero, but it's still releasing it back into the atmosphere. Burying the compostable material might actually be a way of sequestering carbon.

It is, technically, but with caveats. It has to be buried deeply enough that any gasses created by decomposition won't be released or escape on their own.

More worrisome is that, done at a scale that would matter to the atmosphere, it would have to be buried in containers that are impermeable to water forever, lest all of our underground aquifers become contaminated by bacteria and heavy metals that are naturally occurring in plants.


I agree that it can be reduced, my point was that it is directly tied to consumer demand and human activity. It will still be a none-zero number after reduction. No business is out there emitting methane for shits and giggles.

As I said elsewhere in this post, you can cut emission but population growth offsets all the benefits. You cannot address climate change without drastic long term reduction in human activity/population.


Consumption is even further removed from externalities than the companies which do this damage in the first place. It always strikes me as odd when consumers are blamed for the damage companies do when producing their goods. It's not like it says on the packaging "During the production of this product, XXX chemicals were released into your rivers" for consumers to make an informed choice in this matter. Furthermore, companies actively try to hide and cover up the damage that they do. Oil companies have known about the impacts of their products on global warming since the 70's and have waged a HUGE disinformation campaign to say otherwise. Now we are in a situation where half the country doesn't believe in global warming, but it's the consumers fault?

> You cannot address climate change without drastic long term reduction in human activity/population.

Of course you can. You must change activities to be carbon neutral, but you can maintain the same level of comfort you have today. More than "can maintain", you "must".

If you rely on sacrifice from the whole planetary population in order to tackle climate change, we are doomed. It will never happen, as it goes against the competitive nature of humans.

The correct path is forward: innovate, so that carbon neutral forms of energy and materials are better than carbon-emitting versions. Energy is an almost solved problem, using this vector. Let's attack materials now.


Carbon neutrality is a necessity, as is population reduction. I am not advocating for one over the other. Either alone will not work, not short term certainly not long term.

With atmospheric carbon & population, increasing each of these numbers beyond a certain point (where sustainable thriving is naturally possible) can be seen to be detrimental to all.

As excesses become realized, increasingly, a fundamental relationship between these figures can become measurable.

That exact relationship, the proven algorithm, may not realistically be very well agreed upon in detail, but as these factors rise rapidly above baseline levels that function should more accurately be discerned above the background as time goes on.

Maybe before this happens, sustainability would be better achieved by actions resulting in trends which reduce these two figures low enough in combination where no relationship could then be considered realistic.

So carbon neutrality might not be enough without taking too much from population.


To be fair; in cattle at least, "shits and giggles" is not an entirely inaccurate description of methane production.

The laughing cows are the worst. But they make a pretty decent cheese.

In some cases consumer demand is the biggest lever we have, it's true. But in this case of a few bad actor landfills, we can fix 95% of the problem in a matter of a few months or years with established solutions.

> You cannot address climate change without drastic long term reduction in human activity/population.

Completely disagree. Reducing waste, recycling waste, and re-using waste are some of the ways to address climate change. Saying modifying human activity/population is the only way to solve a problem is as extreme as saying climate change isn't real.

> No business is out there emitting methane for shits and giggles.

No one says this, you're reducing the broader point to a poor cliff-note. The point is that the incentives for businesses to better address their waste are not there. If all one gets for managing waste responsibly is a higher bill every month and a good feeling in their stomach, why would a proper capitalist businessperson do that in the short term?


We're beyond incentives. We need taxation, aka carbon tax.

My point was that the "capitalist" is not running that production line in isolation, it is the end consumer demand that drives that pipeline. So yes consumer demand is the ultimate source of all this.

Carbon tax is but a first step but it is necessary as it will force the actors to take action. As you correctly pointed out they have no "incentive" to do so right now.




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