Contribution of waste management to lessen GHG emissions is underestimated

Source: Zero Waste Europe

Amsterdam, The Netherlands – The reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from the EU-28 in 2012 suggests that the sector ‘waste’ accounted for just over 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions responsible for causing global climate change. This might lead one to believe that this is a sector which can do relatively little to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the EU, and indeed, globally. No!, says a new report on „The potential contribution of waste management to a low carbon economy“, commissioned by Zero Waste Europe, in partnership with Zero Waste France and ACR+ and conducted by Eunomia.

Yet studies by various bodies indicate that the potential contribution of waste prevention and management to greenhouse gas abatement could be far greater than the total reported emissions under the ‘waste’ part of the inventory of the European Environment Agency reported to the UNFCCCC. The potential savings to be made from further improvements in waste management (of the order 150-200 million tonnes CO2 equ.) could exceed the level of emissions reported under the ‘waste’ part of the inventory (of the order 100 million tonnes CO2 equ.), and already down from a figure of the order 170 million tonnes CO2 equ. in 1995). Improved waste management systems can play a even bigger part in greenhouse gas reduction. A range of beneficial impacts from improved resource and waste management are effectively recorded in the overall inventory.

As this shows, the main benefits come from waste prevention and from recycling. The benefits from biowaste treatment processes such as composting and anaerobic digestion are less substantial than those relating to the recycling of the dry materials. But especially the benefits from food waste prevention are significant: Separate collection of food waste can give rise – in both households and in businesses – to enhanced awareness of what is thrown away. Where residual waste treatment and disposal are concerned, these tend to make contributions to cli- mate change emissions rather than helping to reduce emissions overall. The benefits of switching from landfill to incineration are slight.

The full report is available under

Source: Zero Waste Europe