Attenuation of fluorocarbons released from foam insulation in landfills

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    Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have been used as blowing agents (BAs) for foam insulation in home appliances and building materials, which after the end of their useful life are disposed of in landfills. The objective of this project was to evaluate the potential for degradation of BAs in landfills, and to develop a landfill model, which could simulate the fate of BAs in landfills. The investigation was performed by use of anaerobic microcosm studies using different types of organic waste and anaerobic digested sludge as inoculum. The BAs studied were CFC-11, CFC-12, HCFC-141b, HFC-134a, and HFC-245fa. Experiments considering the fate of some of the expected degradations products of CFC-11 and CFC-12 were included like HCFC-21, HCFC-22, HCFC-31, HCFC-32, and HFC-41. Degradation of all studied CFCs and HCFCs was observed regardless the type of waste used. In general, the degradation followed first-order kinetics. CFC-11 was rapidly degraded from 590 μg L-1 to less than 5 μg L-1 within 15-20 days. The degradation pattern indicated a sequential production of HCFC-21, HCFC-31, and HFC-41. However, the production of degradation products did not correlate with a stoichiometric removal of CFC-11 indicating that other degradation products were produced. HCFC-21 and HCFC-31 were further degraded whereas no further degradation of HFC-41 was observed. The degradation rate coefficient was directly correlated with the number of chlorine atoms attached to the carbon. The highest degradation rate coefficient was obtained for CFC-11, whereas lower rates were seen for HCFC-21 and HCFC-31. Equivalent results were obtained for CFC-12. HCFC-141b was also degraded with rates comparable to HCFC-21 and CFC-12. Anaerobic degradation of the studied HFCs was not observed in any of the experiments within a run time of up to 200 days. The obtained degradation rate coefficients were used as input for an extended version of an existing landfill fate model incorporating a time dependent BA release from co-disposed foam insulation waste. Predictions with the model indicate that the emission of foam released BAs may be strongly attenuated by microbial degradation reactions. Sensitivity analysis suggests that there is a need for determination of degradation rates under more field realistic scenarios.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology (Washington)
    Issue number22
    Pages (from-to)7714-7722
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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