CO2 emission factors for waste incineration: Influence from source separation of recyclable materials

Anna Warberg Larsen, Thomas Astrup

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


CO2-loads from combustible waste are important inputs for national CO2 inventories and life-cycle assessments (LCA). CO2 emissions from waste incinerators are often expressed by emission factors in kg fossil CO2 emitted per GJ energy content of the waste. Various studies have shown considerable variations between emission factors for different incinerators, but the background for these variations has not been thoroughly examined. One important reason may be variations in collection of recyclable materials as source separation alters the composition of the residual waste incinerated. The objective of this study was to quantify the importance of source separation for determination of emission factors for incineration of residual household waste. This was done by mimicking various source separation scenarios and based on waste composition data calculating resulting emission factors for residual waste routed to incineration. Emission factors ranged from 27 to 40kg CO2/GJ. The results appeared most sensitive towards variations in waste composition and water content. Recycling rates and lower heating values could not be used as simple indicators of the resulting emission factors for residual household waste; however the fossil carbon ratio of the waste after source separation was found to be appropriately correlated with the emission factor. Based on the results, it is recommended to carefully evaluate the source separation and collection systems behind reported literature values when comparing different studies and when using the values for environmental assessment purposes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1597-1605
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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