Composting and bioreactor landfills are two distinct and compatible approaches for improving solid waste management. While some people consider these technologies as conflicting, SWANA and the USCC believe that they each serve beneficial but different roles and different functions in integrated waste management. Composting is an organic recycling strategy, while the purpose of a bioreactor landfill is to reduce the long term care requirements for disposal of those organic wastes that are not being recycled, or are already present in existing landfills. SWANA and the USCC support best management practices that capture the highest value and maximum resources from organic waste materials while protecting public health and preserving environmental quality. Our organizations agree that both composting and bioreactor landfills can contribute to this goal.
Composting is a very successful strategy for recycling of organic materials from the residential (food, paper, lawn and garden waste), commercial/institutional (food and paper from supermarkets, restaurants, and food processing industries), and agricultural (grown or harvested crop waste, animal carcasses and manure) waste streams. SWANA and USCC believe that emphasis should continue to be placed on recovering and recycling as much organic waste as possible from the solid waste stream.
An important question facing solid waste management professionals is what is the best way to manage those organic wastes that are not captured and continue to be landfilled. Bioreactor landfills are a response to that question. Compared to conventional "dry tomb" landfills, bioreactor landfills accelerate the biological degradation of organic compounds buried in landfills by increasing and managing the levels of moisture. The additional moisture is provided by recirculating leachate and by adding liquids. The enhanced decomposition produces more methane more quickly, so bioreactor landfills are designed to better contain and collect this.
The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is an organization of more than 10,000 public and private sector professionals committed to advancing from solid waste management to resource management through their shared emphasis on education, advocacy and research. For close to 60 years, SWANA has been the leading association in the solid waste management field. SWANA serves industry professionals through technical conferences, certifications, publications and a large offering of technical training courses.