Climate Protection Potential in the Waste Management Sector. Examples: Municipal Solid Waste and Waste Wood


In 1990, the German waste management sector (household waste and similar commercial waste), burdened the climate with almost 38 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents. A previous study (in German) conducted by the Öko-Institute and ifeu has made this information known and readily available. New in the current study carried out by the Öko-Institute and ifeu, and conducted on behalf of the German Environment Agency, Federal Ministry of Environment, and the Federation of the German Waste, Water and Raw Materials Management Industry, is that the waste management sector meanwhile relieves the climate actively of nearly 18 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents annually; compared to 1990 this contributes to greenhouse gases mitigation of nearly 56 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents.

Furthermore, the study shows that through continuing waste management measures, such as technical optimization and increased material recycling, further greenhouse gases of up to 10 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents can be avoided by the year 2020. Altogether the treatment and recycling of municipal waste and waste wood alone could account for around 13 % of Germany’s greenhouse gas mitigation target (40 % less by 2020 in relation to 1990).

The situation in the EU 27 has also been examined. Here landfilling still plays a significant role and annually releases up to 110 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents. In this regard a consistent diversion from landfills, accompanied with an ambitious recycling program will be necessary. The mitigation potential is high: Up to 192 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents could be saved depending on the scenario examined. Assuming the level of 2007, municipal solid waste and waste wood management could contribute by up to 32 % to the 600 million tonnes CO2-equivalents which the EU 27 still has to mitigate to meet their voluntarily set 2020 target.

In example countries which were examined, Turkey, Tunisia, and Mexico landfilling is dominating. Whereas only Mexico managed to establish a controlled waste management system. Up to this point, these countries have set no mitigation targets to national climate protection. However, with diversion from landfill, and establishing a recycling economy, considerable greenhouse gas savings through the waste management sector would be possible for all three countries.


December 2008 – January 2010


Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environment Agency), Bundesverband der deutschen Entsorgungs-, Wasser und Rohstoffwirtschaft e.V.


Öko-Institut e.V., Institute for Applied Ecology

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