As a High School or Undergraduate Environmental Sciences teacher, you can use this lesson plan to teach about landfills and landfill gas emissions and their impact on climate.
Municipal solid waste ends up in landfills across the globe. Over time, with the decomposition of the solid waste, these landfills emit various gases such as methane, with greenhouse warming potentials. This lesson plan will describe landfills in detail and how landfill gases could contribute towards climate change. This lesson plan will also discuss how methane from landfills can be collected and used as fuel, thereby mitigating its effect on the climate.
Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Environmental Sciences.
Teacher-contributed lesson plan by Dr Mudau Lutendo S., Ms Kasturie Premlall and Ms Masethe Mosima A., Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa.
Want to know more about how to contribute? Contact us.
Image: Landfills as one of the sources of GHG emission
Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:
- What is municipal solid waste and what is it composed of? Classify the different categories of municipal waste.
- Explain what landfills are and list the pollutant gases that are produced in a landfill.
- Describe how landfills can potentially contribute towards climate change.
- How much does your country’s waste contribute to methane gas emissions?
- Discuss how landfill gases can be processed to mitigate climate change.
About Lesson Plan
|Grade Level||Undergraduate,High school|
|Topic(s) in Discipline||Municipal Solid Waste, Industrial Waste, Hazardous Waste, Landfills, Leachate, Landfill Gases (LFGs), Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Methane|
|Climate Topic||Climate and the Anthroposphere, The Greenhouse Effect, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation|
|Location||Global, USA, South Africa|
|40 – 50 min|
|A brief introduction to solid waste and landfills.|
|A reading to describe in detail the different types of landfills and their compositions.|
|Reading (10 min)||A reading to describe landfill gases (LFGs), with emphasis on methane, a significant greenhouse gas emitted from landfill sites.|
|An interactive visualization of sector-wise (including the waste sector) methane emissions in different countries.|
Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.
Step 1: Topic introduction and discussion
- Play the video, ‘A video about landfills’ by Meggie Stewart, Emory University, to introduce your students to the topic of landfills.
- Use the video to acquaint them with the basics of what municipal solid waste is, how it ends up in landfills, and what happens to it over time as it decomposes.
- Further, explain why methane is produced and emitted from landfills.
Step 2: Discuss the topic of landfills in detail
- Use the reading, ‘Basic Information about Landfills’ by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss landfills and their different types in detail.
- Use the embedded links in text to discuss how landfills are classified according to the waste stored in them.
- Distinguish between Municipal Solid Waste Landfills, non-hazardous Industrial Waste Landfills, and Hazardous Waste Landfills.
- Elaborate upon Bioreactor Landfills that store organic matter and discuss the formation of leachate and landfill gases (LFGs) in them.
- Explain that landfill gases mainly comprise of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide and that their emission from landfill sites can contribute significantly to climate change.
Step 3: Extend the understanding about landfill gases
- Use the reading, ‘Basic Information about Landfill Gas’ by the Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP)- EPA, to discuss the typical composition of landfill gases.
- Use the text and the embedded ‘diagram that illustrates the changes in typical LFG composition after waste placement’ to explain the formation of LFGs due to bacterial decomposition of organic matter in the landfills.
- Elaborate on how methane is produced from landfills and why its release to the atmosphere can adversely affect climate.
- Explain why methane is the more potent greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide.
- Use the text to explain how landfill gases can be used productively, thereby limiting greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and to mitigate their effect on the climate.
Step 4 : Interactive Visualization to explore the local context
- Use the interactive visualization, ‘Methane emissions by sector’ by Our World in Data, to discuss total and relative methane emissions for different countries and regions, from various sectors such as Agriculture, Land Use, and Waste.
- Use the bottom left tabs on the chart, to select for a country or region to visualize its sector-wise breakdown of methane emissions.
- The data for the displayed chart is also available to download as a CSV file.
- Use this visualization and/or data to comment on your country or region’s contribution to methane emissions from the Waste sector and therefore, its potential effect on climate change.