IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Mitigation

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from post-consumer waste and wastewater are a small contributor (about 3%) to total global anthropogenic GHG emissions. Methane (CH4) from landfills and wastewater collectively accounted for about 90% of waste sector emissions, or about 18% of global anthropogenic methane emissions (which were about 14% of the global total in 2004). Current mitigation technologies include landfill gas recovery, improved landfill practices, and engineered wastewater management. In addition, significant GHG generation is avoided through controlled composting, state-of-the-art incineration, and expanded sanitation coverage. Reduced waste generation and the exploitation of energy from waste (landfill gas, incineration, anaerobic digester biogas) produce an indirect reduction of GHG emissions through the conservation of raw materials, improved energy and resource efficiency, and fossil fuel avoidance. Flexible strategies and financial incentives can expand waste management options to achieve GHG mitigation goals; local technology decisions are influenced by a variety of factors such as waste quantity and characteristics, cost and financing issues, infrastructure requirements including available land area, collection and transport considerations, and regulatory constraints. Current uncertainties with respect to emissions and mitigation potentials could be reduced by more consistent national definitions, coordinated international data collection, standardized data analysis, field validation of models, and consistent application of life-cycle assessment tools inclusive of fossil fuel offsets.