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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A greenhouse gas analysis of solid waste management in the Greater Vancouver regional district Barton, Philip K.


A greenhouse gas analysis of the Greater Vancouver Regional District's (GVRD's) solid waste management system is presented in this thesis. This investigation quantifies the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the GVRD's current system of landfilling, incinerating, composting and recycling of the municipal solid waste generated within its boundaries and provides recommendations for future management. The definition of municipal solid waste (MSW) in this thesis is the sum total of all waste generated from residential, industrial, commercial and institutional sources, and excludes the typically categorized demolition and land-clearing (DLC) waste. The waste components newsprint, office paper, ferrous metal, glass, high-density polyethylene, lowdensity polyethylene, food scraps and yard trimmings are investigated individually while the remaining waste is analyzed as a whole. This research finds that the GVRD solid waste system in 1998, instead of causing greenhouse gas emissions, actually prevented the release of 180,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tC0₂e). The existing waste management system created GHG benefits largely from landfill carbon sequestration and by allowing recyclables to offset virgin manufacturing by industry. Energy generation during incineration and at landfills also provided some GHG benefits. These benefits are accounted for as negative emissions and more than compensate for the important GHG emissions identified by this research such as landfill CH₄, CO₂ released during the combustion of diesel fuel and plastics and N₂O emissions. Modelling of this waste system into a spreadsheet program allowed the demonstration of the GHG response to future management changes. Several scenarios were programmed into the Model which illustrate the critical importance future management changes can have on the overall GVRD emissions; of particular relevance when analyzed from the perspective of emissions trading. Major conclusions derived from the scenarios are: the difference between pursuing improvements in landfill gas (LFG) collection and doing nothing could be almost 300,000 tC0₂e/yr, the initiation of electricity generation could reduce emissions by 55,000 tC0₂e/yr, considering incineration as a replacement for landfill disposal could bring in credits of 140,000 tC0₂e/yr when electricity generation is provided, the future methane liability of landfilling requires extensive consideration since modelling ultimate decomposition calculates an emissions increase of over 300,000 tC0₂e/yr. Each of these projects have emissions trading opportunities and at an assumed $5/tCO₂e, significant revenue could be generated in this manner. A number of recommendations complete this thesis. The most important are: to strongly encourage the GVRD to begin actively participating in emissions trading or to bank credits for future regulatory requirements, to investigate improving the LFG collection system at the Cache Creek Landfill, to investigate electricity generation at the Burnaby Incinerator and to encourage greater recycling of metal, glass and plastic.

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