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University of Delaware scientists are using a $1 million federal grant to determine how to measure methane in landfills more accurately.
The institution is one of five across the U.S. that received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.
As residential, commercial, and industrial waste degrades in municipal landfills, it generates gas. Half of these gas emissions are methane, which contributes to climate change, according to the EPA.
“Methane is a potent climate pollutant, which is why improving our understanding of the impacts of methane and other pollution from landfills is crucial to our efforts to address climate change,” said Chris Frey, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development, in a statement.
“EPA is investing in landfill emissions research to improve the scientific foundation for decisions to protect people and the planet. Results from this research will have a global impact on informing approaches to reduce methane emissions and more sustainably manage landfills.”
The greenhouse gas traps more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, so scientists say reducing methane emissions could help limit global warming.
It’s estimated landfills account for about 15% of methane produced by humans, said researcher Paul Imhoff, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Delaware.
“We want to do what we can, especially the low-hanging fruit, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that might not be too costly, but also can allow us to do some effective things in terms of improving the risk associated with climate change,” he said.