Catagory Research Idea

Thinking beyond the State’s 75% recycling goal.

A Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) analysis should be performed to measure the impacts of a product, material, or process, based on predetermined criteria that are identified in partnership with the State.  The LCA tool should look at the life cycle of products from product design, development and use through the end of life.  Product attributes and impacts (e.g., toxicity, water, energy, emissions, economics, etc.) should be considered as criteria.

Development of local or regional markets to process collected recyclables into new products is critical to enhancing the recycling value chain.  Research intended to support Florida recycling market development could address some or all of the following questions:  How would developing Florida processing infrastructure impact the overall economics of recycling in the state? The cost of recycling can be broken down into collection, separation, transportation, and processing into "raw" material or final products, what cost elements have the greatest impact on material recycling?  Where is processing currently taking place? Where are current markets for the processed materials? Is the volume of material collected in Florida sufficient to support new processing operations? Are there underused nearby markets for the processed materials that can be leveraged to increase state recycling?  What incentives for new manufacturing or processing infrastructure can be developed and implemented to assist in the development of local recycling markets?  What potential job impacts and local economic impacts could the development of local recycling infrastructure be expected to generate?  Is there some pay-back on incentives that could be projected for the development of recycling infrastructure?


Messaging to promote recycling.

Research is needed to determine the most influential messaging factors that can be used to increase recycling. There are multiple challenges that hinder public education programs designed to promote recycling.  These challenges include limited budgets (especially in rural counties), a rapidly changing culture, and a changing market for recyclable materials.  Given these challenges, what are the best forms of media to utilize for public outreach and educational programs promoting recycling and integrated waste management programs?

This information can be used to develop empirically-derived messages. A toolkit can be developed with the messages and then distributed to recycling communicators across the state. This toolkit would give recycling communicators access to effective messages that they can use to increase recycling in their respective communities. 

Associated Funded Research: CaRe: Communicating about Recycling – PI Janice Krieger, UF, 2016


Beneficial use of recycled glass.

 Finding good uses for recycled glass has proven to be a difficult problem to solve.  Broken glass contaminates our recycling streams and is often disposed of in a landfill. Recycled glass is a difficult material to market.  Lee County and Hendry County have developed a use for recycled glass. The landfill/disposal facility that serves these two counties uses recycled glass cullet as the top one foot of the leachate collection system in their ash monofill. This use has been approved by the FDEP, pursuant to FDEP Rule 62-701.400(3)(d)3, subject to the restriction that the glass cullet must be less than 3/8 of an inch in size. Landfills typically spend large sums of money to buy drainage media that can be used in their leachate collection systems. Being able to routinely use recovered glass cullet in the leachate collection systems at landfills in Florida could be a big cost savings.

 Given this backdrop, there are a series of questions that need to be addressed.  Are there new or novel ways to recover, recycle and reuse glass?  If we cannot find a good use for recovered glass, is it time to simply eliminate glass from the materials that are collected in curbside recycling programs?  If we do not eliminate glass at the curb, what can be done to reduce glass contamination in single stream recycling programs?  Should the state mandate recycling of glass?

Associated Funded Research:
1.  CaRe: Communicating about Recycling – PI Janice Krieger, UF, 2016
2.  Assessment and Evaluation of Contamination in Single Stream Recycling Systems Due to Broken Glass and Other Non-recyclables – Nurcin Celik, Miami, Funded: 2016
3.  Assessment of the Impact of Single Stream Recycling on Paper Contamination in Recovery Facilities and Paper Mills in Florida – Nurcin Celik, Miami, Funded: 2015

BENEFICIAL USE/RECYCLING Updating the publication “Compost Use in Florida”.

FDEP previously published a report entitled “Compost Use in Florida.”  This publication needs to be updated to address various issues, including: (a) BMPs for potential businesses producing or using compost; (b) the US Composting Council’s STA Testing program*; (c) contacts regarding compost experts in the UF Institute for Food and Agricultural Science; and (d) market development for compost and compost products.  (*The US Composting Council’s Seal of Testing Assurance Program (“STA”) is a compost testing, labeling and information disclosure program designed to provide information to get the maximum benefit from the use of compost.).  The publication also should include a section that identifies the organizations that help support composting in Florida (e.g., USCC, IFAS, RFT).  Further, the update should describe the history of FORCE, what it accomplished, and the new FORCE Website.

Development of a model for local recyclable processing infrastructure.

What impact would local processing of recyclable materials have on the overall economics of recycling? The cost of recycling can be broken down into collection, separation, transportation, and processing into "raw" material. How much of this cost is tied to transportation? Where is processing currently taking place? Where are the markets for the processed materials? Is the volume of material collected in Florida sufficient to support a processing operation? Are there nearby markets for the processed materials? Would developing processing infrastructure within the state improve the economics of recycling? What impact would this have on the recycling rate? What impact does the cost of recycling have on recycling program decisions?


Cost/benefit analysis for recycling.

Research is needed to analyze the life-cycle costs and benefits (e.g., economic, environmental, social, etc.) of existing recycling practices in Florida.  The goal is to better identify the total value that recycling offers the community.  The research should examine how these costs and benefits vary by the type of community (e.g., rural, suburban or urban) and by the market for recovered material.

The sale of recovered materials has traditionally offset the cost of collection and processing of the materials. However, more recently the value of recovered materials has experienced significant declines. The decline in value may continue or worsen because China, the US’s #1 importer of recycled plastics and papers, plans to implement a ban or curb on such materials beginning in 2018 as part of China’s “Green Fence” policy. In some instances, recovered materials processors are now requiring a tip fee to accept the materials, which may be indicative of the changing economics (

Identifying the total value of recycling (i.e., beyond the direct economic costs of collection and disposal) may help inform decision-makers about the true benefits of recycling and, in turn, may provide insights that can lead to changes in policies, best practices, or pricing strategies for recycling (e.g., investments in alternative infrastructure such as “Dirty” MRFs, or bottle bill policy, etc.).


Carbon Capture and Recovery from WTE and LFG emissions.

Carbon is a valuable resource.  It also is a significant pollutant found in WTE and landfill gas emissions.

Is there a cost-effective method to remove carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide from landfill gas and WTE emissions?  Could the carbon be recovered for reuse?


Management and treatment of landfill leachate.

There are several sources of leachate at landfills, including leachate extracted from landfill gas (LFG) wells, condensate from the LFG piping system, and leachate from the primary leachate collection system.  When these liquids are mixed together, they may form precipitates.  The precipitates cause “Leachate Rocking” (clogging) that affects pumps and collection systems, including collection pipes, header pipes and force-main pipes.  (See Item No. 25, below).

Given these problems, should the liquids from these different sources be collected and managed separately from each other?  If so, how would this be done? 

Research has been conducted on this topic by Townsend and Meeroff pursuant to funding provided by the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County.

Leachate production at closed landfills.

The quantity of leachate generated by a closed landfill is thought to decrease during the post closure period. However, the quantity of leachate produced annually during the post closure period is not well documented in the public literature.  Good data concerning this topic is needed to provide reasonable estimates concerning the amount of money that should be set aside for financial assurance and financial planning purposes.

What information is available concerning this subject?  Does the quantity of leachate produced decrease over time?  If so, how much does it decrease and how fast?


On-site options for treating landfill leachate.

Discharging leachate (or hauling leachate) from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills to municipal wastewater treatment facilities is the most common method of leachate disposal. However, the chemical characteristics and high ionic strength of landfill leachate often creates both operational and treatment performance challenges at the wastewater treatment facilities. Landfill leachate seems to impact the wastewater treatment facility’s effluent quality and the quality of the facility’s sludge (biosolids).  There is a need for evaluating the characteristics and compatibility of specific key compounds and groups of pollutants (both commonly detected and emerging) in MSW leachate for persistence and removal limitations by different processes at wastewater treatment plants. There is a need for the development of composition-based pretreatment of leachate prior to discharge to wastewater treatment facilities. One possible process is the utilization of algae based membrane bioreactors, which allow for the utilization of photo-degradation technologies (solar and UV-LED irradiation).  This technique is thought to reduce the molecular weight of organic compounds in leachate, making these recalcitrant compounds more biodegradable.

What methods can be used on-site for the simple, inexpensive, pre-treatment of leachate so that the leachate will be acceptable at wastewater treatment facilities? What methods can be used on-site to remove specific contaminants that cause small wastewater treatment facilities to reject the leachate?


Prevention and treatment of Leachate Rocking.

Leachate Rocking is the formation of hard precipitates on the walls of the leachate collection system. These precipitates build on themselves and eventually clog the leachate collection system pipes with a very hard rock-like material that is very difficult to remove. Prior to the formation of the rocking material, dilution of the leachate (i.e., to prevent super saturation of the leachate with Calcium based materials) is one option that can be used to reduce the potential for Leachate Rocking.  The addition of strong acids is another treatment option.  Once the Leachate Rocking has taken place and the hard precipitates are in place, removal of the rock-like material from the leachate collection system is very difficult and expensive.  The only removal options are treatment with strong acids to dissolve the rock-like material and/or attempting to blast the rock-like material away with extremely high water pressure jets.

Research is needed that identifies other options for (a) preventing the formation of hard precipitates and (b) removing the precipitates.

Research has been conducted on this topic by Townsend and Meeroff which was funded by the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County.


Perpetual care and environmental contingency funds for closed landfills.

A landfill is considered functionally stable when it no longer presents an unacceptable threat to human health and the environment.  However, even stabilized landfill sites require perpetual care, such as routine site maintenance and monitoring.  Stabilized sites also need to have contingency funds available to pay for unanticipated events that may affect the integrity of the landfill or the environmental quality in the surrounding areas.

A planning tool is needed to: (a) identify the tasks that must be accomplished when caring for closed landfills; (b) estimate the cost of those tasks; and (c) estimate the amount of money that should be placed in a contingency fund.  The planning tool should address a long-term horizon that may extend for 30 years or more after the landfill closure.  The management tool should identify the routine and non-routine monitoring that is likely to be needed, the maintenance needs, and the associated costs. The goal is to identify the perpetual care and environmental contingency fund requirements necessary for managing closed landfills for 30-60 years after closure.

LANDFILL DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT Long-term maintenance for closed landfills that were built with slurry walls.

There are a number of landfills in Florida that were built using a slurry wall that surrounds the disposal area of the landfill.   These landfills include: the Seminole County Landfill, the Brevard County Landfill, Bee Ridge (closed) in Sarasota County, Bridgeway Acres in Pinellas County, Lena Road in Manatee County, and Zemel Road in Charlotte County.  There are three other closed slurry wall landfills: Toytown in Pinellas County, West Nassau in Nassau County, and the City of St. Cloud in Osceola County.

The groundwater withdrawal pumps located inside the area enclosed by the slurry wall are used to withdraw groundwater and thus create an inward gradient in the surficial aquifer —i.e., the potentiometric “top" of the surficial aquifer within the area confined by the slurry wall is drawn down by the pumps to a level that is lower in elevation than the potentiometric “top” of the surficial aquifer that is outside of the slurry wall. Will the FDEP or US EPA require that the pumps be maintained and operated after the “Post Closure Care Period” is over?  If so, will the FDEP or the US EPA require that the groundwater withdrawal pumps be operated in perpetuity? If not, what is a reasonable period of time after the post closure period is over to maintain and operate the pumps within the area surrounded by the slurry wall? (Perpetuity is a very long time.)

Vegetative covers at landfills.

Most landfill cover is constructed using sod.  Grass covers require routine, perpetual maintenance (mowing, erosion repair, etc.).  Selecting native grasses or plants for a landfill cover may be a better alternative.  A more natural cover with native species may help native birds, animals, and insects (bees).  Volunteer trees and other plants that have deep roots could be pruned or removed.

What native plant species would be appropriate for use in a landfill cover system, without compromising the integrity of the cover system?


Elevated temperatures in landfills.

An increasing number of landfills are experiencing elevated temperatures. Methods to halt or reverse the increase in landfill temperatures do not seem to be readily available.  Several Florida landfills have experienced elevated temperatures and had only limited success in addressing this issue.

What information is available concerning the cause of elevated temperatures in landfills?  What methods can be used successfully to reduce elevated temperatures in landfills?

Associated Funded Research:
Characterization of Florida Landfills with Elevated Temperatures – Debra Reinhart, UCF Funded: 2016


Geosynthetic landfill covers.

Are Geosynthetics appropriate for use in final landfill cover systems?  Anecdotal information suggests that geosynthetics will photo-degrade over time and will eventually need to be replaced. Should the FDEP rules in Chapter 62-701 be amended to allow geosynthetics to be used in final cover systems?  Data is needed on this topic.


Evapo-Transpiration final covers for Class I landfills.

Landfill operators would like to be able to use alternative cover systems that are less expensive than traditional final cover systems.  Would an evapo-transpiration cover be a cost-effective alternative?


Maximizing the collection of landfill gas.

Landfill operators want to maximize the amount of landfill gas that they collect for power production.  What can be done to improve the way that landfill gas wells are installed and operated to optimize the landfill gas recovery rate for power production?


Minimizing fugitive emissions of landfill gas.

Landfill operators want to minimize fugitive emissions of landfill gas and odorous compounds from landfill gas wells.  What can be done to improve the way that landfill gas wells are installed and operated, and thus minimize the fugitive gas emissions and objectionable odors that are emitted from the landfill?


Management and control of landfill odors.

Landfill odors continue to be a challenge for many operations. In general, research is needed to identify the odor control and mitigation strategies that work best to address this problem.  What specific classes and types of chemicals and chemical distribution systems work best? What are the key factors to successfully mitigate odors at landfills?

More specifically, what are the most successful techniques and methods for reducing Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) gasses and other odiferous reduced sulfur compounds at landfills?  What is the best way to control the objectionable odors that accompany this family of reduced sulfur compounds?


Landfill liners in groundwater.

The FDEP rules in Chapter 62-701 authorize landfill liner systems to be constructed completely above or completely below the groundwater (i.e., the top of the surficial aquifer).  However, the liner system cannot be placed in a location where it will be subject to fluctuations in the surficial water table, which would cause the liner to become wet and then dry.  It is unclear whether the performance of a GCL would be adversely affected by being placed in the groundwater.

The proposed research project would use groundwater quality data and soil characteristics at various locations around the state to evaluate the influence of cation exchange on the GCL as a result of being in contact with the groundwater and soil at various locations.  Cation exchange may increase the permeability of the GCL.  The research would be designed to identify the data that is needed for the FDEP to determine whether it should issue a permit for a proposed liner system that will be located in groundwater

China’s impacts on U.S. recycling programs.

As noted above, China may expand its “Green Fence” policy in a way that bans or significantly restricts the importation of American recyclable materials into China.  What impacts will China’s new solid waste policies have on the US solid waste and recycling programs?  What should the U.S., Florida, and local governments do to maintain and promote their recycling programs?

This policy is being implemented primarily due to contamination in shipments of recyclables.  The research could examine contamination and develop best management practices that will reduce contamination.


Impacts of Bottle Bill legislation.

Some have suggested that the Florida Legislature should adopt a “Bottle Bill” mandating the collection and recycling of various types of bottles.  If the Legislature were to consider the adoption of a bottle bill, what environmental and economic impacts would occur in Florida?


Perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in landfill leachate.

PFAS are an emerging contaminate.  PFAS are suspected carcinogens and are present in the blood stream of 99% of Americans. PFAS also may be present in landfill leachate. The FDEP is concerned that people may be exposed to PFAS if leachate containing PFAS is taken to a wastewater treatment facility and then the sludge (biosolids) from the facility is land applied.

One issue for research is whether landfills are a significant source of PFAS compounds.  Another issue is whether there are effective technologies for removing PFAS from landfill leachate.


Recycling TVs and E-Waste.

Many of the old TVs that homeowners bring to the Household Hazardous Waste centers (HHW) are being put into landfills, because there is end market for them. Some HHW sites have pallets full of old TVs and nowhere to send them.  Although there is no market for the old TVs, local governments do not want to tell the homeowners that they should throw their TVs in the trash.

What can be done to beneficially reuse or recycle old TVs and other forms of E-Waste?


Collection and recycling of food waste.

Recent and ongoing research by Dr. Sarina Ergas at USF indicates that many of the existing anaerobic treatment systems for highly organic wastes are located in the northern regions of the United States, Canada and the northern regions of Western Europe (e.g., Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) that have a very heightened awareness of global warming and climate change.  The collection and management of food waste is also becoming more common in China as a way of getting the food waste out of the waste stream in areas where WTE plants are being operated.  The collection and treatment of food waste is not a common practice in the southern regions of the United States.  Florida is a state with warm temperatures and high humidity.

Are the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., fugitive methane emissions) from the working face and areas with intermediate cover (i.e., no gas collection) at landfills worth the expense of the on-site storage (refrigeration), collection (frequent) and treatment of these class of wastes in southern states such as Florida? Are there any cost effective and neighborhood friendly ways to collect and compost food waste in a densely populated urban environment in Florida?  What are the best management practices for the collection, treatment and recycling of food waste and other related organics (e.g., supermarket wastes) in high density urban areas? 

Associated Funded Research:
Bioenergy Production from MSW by Solid State Anaerobic Digestion – Serina Ergas, USF, Funded: 2014

Can WTE FLY ASH be used as a substitute for coal fly ash in its various applications? The two largest encapsulated uses reported by the ACAA in 2014 are fly ash used in "concrete/concrete products/grout" (13.1 million tons) and flue gas desulfurization (FGD) gypsum used in "gypsum panel products" (11.26 million tons), making up over 50 percent of the total amount of coal ash beneficially used. The largest un-encapsulated use of coal ash is in “structural fills/embankments” (6.7 million tons). (

 What properties of WTE fly ash and/or other factors prevent WTE fly ash from being used for the same applications as coal fly ash? Are there methods that could be used to eliminate or mitigate these properties and factors and thus allow WTE fly ash to be used more extensively? Are there markets in the State of Florida where WTE fly ash could be used as a replacement for coal fly ash?  Are there metals recovery systems that would enhance the use of WTE fly?   Are there other beneficial uses of WTE fly ash that should be encouraged?


Beneficial use of WTE bottom ash.

The US is missing out on resource recovery in the form of ash recycling. Reuse of this material is standard procedure in other European countries.

Should Waste to energy BOTTOM ASH be used to construct reinforcing walls for landfill infrastructure? A pilot scale project could be built to demonstrate the technical capability of WTE BOTTOM ASH as a construction material for berms or embankments at MSW landfills.

Recycling at WTE facilities.


Are there opportunities for improving the efficiency of recovering recyclable materials (e.g., aluminum and other metals) from the ash at WTE plants?

University of FloridaFlorida international universityUSFMiami UniversityFlorida A&MUCFFlorida StateFAUUniversity of West FloridaFlorida Institute of Technology