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Outlooks: Municipal waste management and greenhouse gases

Released: 2008/01/31: See The full report

The EEA and the European Topic Centre on Resource and Waste Management have developed a model for projection of waste quantities and estimation of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the management of this waste. At present, the model is made for municipal waste.

The study 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.

The calculations are 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.

A key finding is that better management of municipal waste can reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and, if high rates of recycling and possibly incineration with energy recovery are attained, the net greenhouse gas emissions may even become ‘negative’.

Published as ETC/RWM Working Paper No 1/2008

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EEA’s briefing

ETC working papers are Topic Centre analyses and findings, which have been prepared as part of the work programme for the EEA but which are not scheduled for publication under one of the EEA publication serials. As the studies represent a valuable contribution to knowledge sharing within the field of resource and waste management in Europe, it has been chosen to disseminate the information in the form of a working paper. Available in electronic format only.