Composting and compost utilization: accounting of greenhouse gases and global warming contributions

Alessio Boldrin, Jacob Kragh Andersen, Jacob Møller, Thomas Højlund Christensen, E. Favoino

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Abstract

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to composting of organic waste and the use of compost were assessed from a waste management perspective. The GHG accounting for composting includes use of electricity and fuels, emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from the composting process, and savings obtained by the use of the compost. The GHG account depends on waste type and composition (kitchen organics, garden waste), technology type (open systems, closed systems, home composting), the efficiency of off-gas cleaning at enclosed composting systems, and the use of the compost. The latter is an important issue and is related to the long-term binding of carbon in the soil, to related effects in terms of soil improvement and to what the compost substitutes; this could be fertilizer and peat for soil improvement or for growth media production. The overall global warming factor (GWF) for composting therefore varies between significant savings (—900 kg CO2-equivalents tonne—1 wet waste (ww)) and a net load (300 kg CO2-equivalents tonne —1 ww). The major savings are obtained by use of compost as a substitute for peat in the production of growth media. However, it may be difficult for a specific composting plant to document how the compost is used and what it actually substitutes for. Two cases representing various technologies were assessed showing how GHG accounting can be done when specific information and data are available.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management and Research
Volume27
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)800-812
ISSN0734-242X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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