Landfilling of waste: accounting of greenhouse gases and global warming contributions

Simone Manfredi, Davide Tonini, Thomas Højlund Christensen, H. Scharff

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Accounting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from waste landfilling is summarized with the focus on processes and technical data for a number of different landfilling technologies: open dump (which was included as the worst-case-scenario), conventional landfills with flares and with energy recovery, and landfills receiving low-organic-carbon waste. The results showed that direct emissions of GHG from the landfill systems (primarily dispersive release of methane) are the major contributions to the GHG accounting, up to about 1000 kg CO2-eq. tonne —1 for the open dump, 300 kg CO2-eq. tonne —1 for conventional landfilling of mixed waste and 70 kg CO2-eq. tonne—1 for low-organic-carbon waste landfills. The load caused by indirect, upstream emissions from provision of energy and materials to the landfill was low, here estimated to be up to 16 kg CO2-eq. tonne—1. On the other hand, utilization of landfill gas for electricity generation contributed to major savings, in most cases, corresponding to about half of the load caused by direct GHG emission from the landfill. However, this saving can vary significantly depending on what the generated electricity substitutes for. Significant amounts of biogenic carbon may still be stored within the landfill body after 100 years, which here is counted as a saved GHG emission. With respect to landfilling of mixed waste with energy recovery, the net, average GHG accounting ranged from about —70 to 30 kg CO2-eq. tonne— 1, obtained by summing the direct and indirect (upstream and downstream) emissions and accounting for stored biogenic carbon as a saving. However, if binding of biogenic carbon was not accounted for, the overall GHG load would be in the range of 60 to 300 kg CO2-eq. tonne —1. This paper clearly shows that electricity generation as well as accounting of stored biogenic carbon are crucial to the accounting of GHG of waste landfilling.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management and Research
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)825-836
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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