Proximate Composition

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The elements of proximate composition are moisture, ash, volatile matter, and fixed carbon. The moisture content of solid waste is defined as the material lost during one hour at 105°C. Ash is the residue remaining after combustion. Together, moisture and ash represent the noncombustible fraction of the waste.

Volatile matter is the material driven off as gas or vapor when waste is subjected to a temperature of approximately 950°C for 7 min but is prevented from burning because oxygen is excluded. Volatile matter should not be confused with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are a small component of typical solid waste. In proximate analysis, any VOCs present tend to be included in the result for moisture.

Conceptually, fixed carbon is the combustible material remaining after the volatile matter is driven off. Fixed carbon represents the portion of combustible waste that must be burned in the solid state rather than as gas or vapor. The value for fixed carbon reported by the laboratory is calculated as follows:

Table 10.3.4 shows a representative proximate composition for MSW. The values in the table are percentages based on dry (moisture-free) MSW. Representative moisture values are also provided. These moisture values are for MSW and components of MSW as they are received at a disposal facility. Because of a shortage of data for the proximate composition of noncombustible materials, these materials are presented as 100% ash.

The dry-basis values in Table 10.3.4 can be converted to as-received values by using the following equation:


A = value for waste as received at the solid waste facility

D = dry-basis value

M = percent moisture for waste received at the solid waste facility

Between initial discard at the point of generation and delivery to a central facility, moisture moves from wet materials to dry and absorbent materials. The largest movement of moisture is from food waste to uncoated paper discarded with food waste. This paper includes newspaper, kraft paper, and a substantial portion of other paper from residential sources as well as corrugated cardboard from commercial sources.

Other sources of moisture in paper waste include water absorbed by paper towels, napkins, and tissues during use, and precipitation. Absorbent materials frequently exposed to precipitation include newspaper and corrugated cardboard. Many trash containers are left uncovered, and precipitation is absorbed by the waste. Standing water in dumpsters is often transferred to the collection vehicle.

The value of proximate analysis is limited because (1) it does not indicate the degree of oxidation of the combustible waste and (2) it gives little indication of the quantities of pollutants emitted during combustion of the waste. Ultimate analysis supplements the information provided by proximate analysis.

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