Thursday, 31 January 2008
A new study from the ETC/RWM shows that net greenhouse gas emissions from the management of municipal waste in the European Union will decrease from 55 million tonnes in 1990 to 10 million tonnes in 2020, largely because we recycle more waste and landfill less. The incineration of waste to produce electricity and heat also helps this reduction.
However, there is still a considerable potential for a further decrease of greenhouse gas emissions if more waste is diverted from landfill. The study assumes that 34% of municipal waste will be landfilled in 2020.
The calculation of greenhouse gas emissions from the management of municipal waste is based on life cycle information. That is, the calculated emission levels include not only the direct effects from treatment plants and transport of waste, but also the ‘avoided’ emissions from material recycling and energy recovery. Life cycle information allows the calculation of benefits (or avoided emissions) of manufacturing primary materials (e.g. plastics, paper and metals) and producing energy. Landfill also contributes to avoided emissions, but only when methane is recovered and used as an energy source substituting fossil fuels.
Less surprising perhaps, is that the study confirms the increase in the generation of municipal waste. The projection shows that around 25% more waste will be generated in 2020 compared with the generation in 2005. Then, the generation of municipal waste per inhabitant is estimated to be 680 kg.
Read also EEA’s briefing