Mitigating Landfill Methane

A Memo Series

Technical Approaches and Policy Levers to Achieve Emissions Reductions

As organic waste decomposes in landfills, it generates methane — a super-potent greenhouse gas with about 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide emissions over 20 years. In the United States, landfills are the third-largest human-driven source of methane. While some landfills are required to capture and control their methane, current federal standards are failing to deliver the emissions reductions urgently needed in this decade and beyond.

Fortunately, there are a number of proven, often low-cost strategies to better:

  • Mitigate methane from landfilled waste through improved monitoring and control; and
  • Prevent future methane generation by reducing organic waste disposal in landfills.

Municipalities and operators can start implementing these strategies today, but policy will be an important catalyst to reduce emissions at scale and protect landfill-adjacent communities across the country.

Cutting methane is key to slowing near-term warming, and our methane strategy must include ambitious action in the waste sector. To help policymakers, municipalities, operators, and advocates take action to prevent and mitigate landfill methane emissions, RMI has produced a series of memos that explores:

  • The scope and causes of landfill methane emissions
  • Advanced monitoring technologies for measurement and mitigation
  • Design and operational strategies to minimize fugitive emissions
  • Upstream strategies to reduce organic waste disposal and recycle residual organics
  • Policy levers and funding mechanisms