Abstract: Many developed countries have targeted landfill methane recovery among greenhouse gas mitigation strategies, since methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. Major questions remain with respect to actual methane production rates in field settings and the relative mass of methane that is recovered, emitted, oxidized by methanotrophic bacteria, laterally migrated, or temporarily stored within the landfill volume. This paper presents the results of extensive field campaigns at three landfill sites to elucidate the total methane balance and provide field measurements to quantify these pathways. We assessed the overall methane mass balance in field cells with a variety of designs, cover materials, and gas management strategies. Sites included different cell configurations, including temporary clay cover, final clay cover, geosynthetic clay liners, and geomembrane composite covers, and cells with and without gas collection systems. Methane emission rates ranged from � 2.2 to >10,000 mg CH4 m � 2 d � 1 . Total methane oxidation rates ranged from 4% to 50% of the methane flux through the cover at sites with positive emissions. Oxidation of atmospheric methane was occurring in vegetated soils above a geomembrane. The results of these studies were used as the basis for guidelines by the French environment agency (ADEME) for default values for percent recovery: 35% for an operating cell with an active landfill gas (LFG) recovery system, 65% for a temporary covered cell with an active LFG recovery system, 85% for a cell with clay final cover and active LFG recovery, and 90% for a cell with a geomembrane final cover and active LFG recovery. � 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.