Climate protection in the waste management sector

Bio-gas plantClick to enlarge
Bio-gas plants contribute to climate protection
Source: Markus Bormann / Fotolia

Waste management makes an important contribution to climate protection. Recycling, the energetic use of residual waste, and capturing and utilizing landfill gas contribute significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In Germany, the landfill ban for untreated municipal solid waste (MSW) set an important impulse for this development.

The face of MSW management has changed substantially since 1990, in that the separate collection and recycling of valuable materials are far more common than they used to be. In fact, nowadays more than 60 percent of household waste – particularly paper, glass, packaging and organic waste – is recycled. This saves raw materials and reduces primary-energy use, and also cuts down CO2 emissions.

While using residual waste as a substitute for fossil fuels also promotes climate protection, avoiding methane formation on landfills is the most effective of all GHG reduction measures. In Germany, this has already been fulfilled through the landfill ban for untreated MSW that came into effect in June 2005. Since that time, strict adherence to the criteria set forth in the “Abfallablagerungsverordnung” (ordinance on waste disposal) - which was enacted in 2001 and has been incorporated into the “Deponieverordnung” (landfill ordinance) - has been mandatory. This is only achievable by thermal or mechanical biological pretreatment of MSW. The capture and use of landfill gas also reduces GHG emissions.

The UBA has commissioned a number of studies on the impact of waste management on climate protection.

GHG mitigation potentials