Landfill methane abatement costs estimated

EU Commission study says emissions could be reduced by over one-third from 1990 levels

The EU could cut waste management emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by over one-third by 2010 compared with 1990, a study published today by the European Commission concludes. Produced by consultants AEA Technology and Ecofys and the national technical university in Athens, Greece, the report estimates the costs per tonne and the abatement potential of various methane reduction measures.

Molecule for molecule, methane has about twenty times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and releases from waste management facilities - principally landfills - account for 4% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions - or 156m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2eq). Three broad abatement options are available, the study says: diverting biodegradable waste from landfill to alternative treatments; collecting and burning methane in landfill gas; and improving landfill aeration.

Of thirteen individual techniques studied, three can be implemented at net profit: diverting paper for recycling, capturing landfill heat and generating electricity from landfill gas. But these only account for around 10% of a total abatement potential of 67 MtCO2eq. Almost half of the potential comes from diverting waste to incineration, though at a cost of between euros 29 and euros 99 per tonne of methane avoided.

* A related study published by the Commission in December estimated that the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector (mainly methane and nitrous oxide) is much lower. These emissions represent over double the emissions from the waste management sector but implementing all possible abatement options would only lead to a reduction in agricultural emission of 11%.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. See both studies and others in the Commission's research into sectoral greenhouse gas emissions reductions here.

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