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Science AMA Series: I’m Jon Powell, a Doctoral Student in Chemical & Environmental Engineering at Yale. I study how waste and discarded materials are managed and recently found that Americans dispose o
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EDIT: I’m now live - bring on your burning garbage questions, Reddit! Thanks for so many great questions so far, I’ll be hanging out Friday afternoon and checking up on new ones that arrive. Hi reddit, I, along with my co-authors, recently published a manuscript in Nature Climate Change that had a few key findings. First, we found that every American is disposing of about 5 pounds of waste per person per day, but that US landfills generally have several decades of life remaining. Second, we examined engineered systems built at landfills to collect gases produced when waste decomposes and identified the factors that most greatly impact the performance of these systems. Taken together, we identified areas where significant reductions in greenhouse gases can be achieved and uncovered opportunities for additional renewable energy production. I have worked on materials and waste management issues across multiple continents and am passionate about expanding the use of data to better understand how we manage materials in the US, with the goal of identifying hotspots where more sustainable decisions can be made. TL;DR America disposes of a lot of waste and we can reduce current/future gas emissions and produce more energy with improved gas collection practices.