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ERE Seminar: Corinne Scown, PhD (LBNL) - Weighing life-cycle climate and public health tradeoffs...

September 21, 2020 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm
Zoom Meeting (see Event Details for login info)

Corinne Scown, PhD | Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

TITLEWeighing life-cycle climate and public health tradeoffs in organic waste management

ABSTRACTWaste-to-energy systems can play an important role in diverting organic waste from landfills. However, real-world waste management can differ from idealized practices, and emissions driven by microbial communities and complex chemical processes are poorly understood. This study presents a comprehensive life-cycle assessment, using reported and measured data, of competing management alternatives for organic municipal solid waste including landfilling, composting, dry anaerobic digestion (AD) for the production of renewable natural gas (RNG), and dry AD with electricity generation. Landfilling is the most greenhouse gas (GHG)-intensive option, emitting nearly 400 kg CO2e per tonne of organic waste. Composting raw organics resulted in the lowest GHG emissions, at −41 kg CO2e per tonne of waste, while upgrading biogas to RNG after dry AD resulted in −36 to −2 kg CO2e per tonne. Monetizing the results based on social costs of carbon and other air pollutant emissions highlights the importance of ground-level NH3 emissions from composting nitrogen-rich organic waste or post-AD solids. However, better characterization of material-specific NH3 emissions from landfills and land-application of digestate is essential to fully understand the trade-offs between alternatives.

BIOCorinne Scown is the Vice President and founder of the Life-cycle, Economics, and Agronomy Division (LEAD) at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), Deputy Director for Research of the Energy Analysis and Environmental Impacts (EAEI) Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and Head of Sustainability at the Energy and Biosciences Institute (EBI). Scown’s expertise includes life-cycle assessment, technoeconomic analysis, biofuels and bioproducts and co-management of energy and water. She has led projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, California Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board, and Energy Biosciences Institute. She also frequently collaborates with companies ranging from small startups to large multinational corporations in the bioenergy and bioproducts domain. Scown earned a B.S. in civil engineering with a double-major in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and she received her Ph.D. and M.S. in civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley.

*If you are a Stanford Affiliate outside the Energy Resources Engineering (ERE) department, and would like to attend, please contact Emily Gwynn ( for the Zoom Meeting link and password.

**If you are in the Energy Resources Engineering (ERE) department, you will receive an announcement from Emily Gwynn ( with the Zoom Meeting link and password.

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