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Abstract

Lignocellulosic portion of municipal solid waste (MSW) is considered a potential feedstock for fuel ethanol production. I review the trends in MSW generation, composition and disposal practices, and evaluate the aggregate and regional potential of MSW as a feedstock. I present an overview of the current technology of MSW to ethanol conversion. An attractive feature of MSW-ethanol conversion is that the feedstock is available at a negative cost; i.e. disposal facilities charge tipping fees ranging from $15-$100/ton to accept MSW. I assess the financial feasibility of a typical MSW-ethanol plant with a capacity of 500 tons per day under a number of scenarios with respect to tipping fees, ethanol prices, capital costs, byproduct prices and ethanol tax incentives. I find the profitability to be robust across scenarios. I then discuss technical, economic, environmental and social barriers that inhibit commercialization.

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