Study: Slight difference between landfill and incineration in climate change balance

Industrieemissionen (Foto: Kroll/

Amsterdam, The Netherlands – The management of waste as residual waste makes a net contribution to the climate change balance. But there is not that much difference between the landfill and incineration scenarios. This is one of the key statements of a new report into the potential of waste management. The report poses for the transition to a low carbon economy. Commissioned by Zero Waste Europe, in partnership with Zero Waste France and ACR+ and conducted by Eunomia, it highlights key problems with the current UNFCCC waste inventories, as well as providing recommendations for their improvement.

According to the study titled „The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy”, the benefits from biowaste treatment processes such as composting and anaerobic digestion are less substantial than those relating to the recycling many of the dry materials. However, the benefits from food waste prevention are significant to the extent that separate collection of food waste can give rise to enhanced awareness of what is thrown away. Residual waste treatment and disposal tend to make contributions to climate change emissions rather than helping to reduce emissions overall. Indeed, the benefits of switching from landfill to incineration are slight.

ThIn order to ensure that the prevention and management of waste is accorded the significance it deserves from the perspective of climate change, the study makes several recommendations like „Waste policies should be designed to manage waste in the upper tiers of the waste hierarchy (i.e. recycling or above)“ and „The implementation of blanket bans on the landfilling of waste should be resisted. Since, for materials widely found in mixed residual waste, material-specific landfill bans are not enforceable, the focus should be on measures to encourage, or mandate, the separation of waste for preparation for reuse or recycling.“

The report is avalable under or

Source: Zero Waste Europe