Recycling and Waste Reduction Saves Millions of Tonnes of CO2 Emission

On 31 January and 1 February 2008, the Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and sustainable Resource management (ACR+) and London Remade will jointly host an international conference on waste and climate change in London. The conference will present recent studies on the CO2 balance of waste management options such as prevention, reuse, recycling and energy recovery. The focus will be on the most controversial materials such as plastics, paper and organic waste.

According to a recent study from Ökopol1, the municipal recycling rate of 37% achieved in EU 25 currently saves 160 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents every year compared to zero recycling. The study estimates that increasing Europe’s municipal waste recycling rate from 37% to 65% could save up to 144 million tonnes CO2 equivalents every year.

While the benefits of recycling are increasingly recognised and known, studies on the benefits of waste prevention at source are still in their infancy. It is estimated that the lifecycle of food from production to waste is responsible for 22% of the UK’s 140 million tonnes of domestic CO2 emissions.

A study by ACR+ member IBGE shows that municipal waste prevention campaigns could allow every European citizen to reduce their carbon footprint by 160 kg. If this was achieved at the global EU 27 level, it would represent a global saving potential of more than 70 million tonnes of CO2.

ACR+ President Jean-Pierre Hannequart says: “Current available data confirm the need for some hierarchy in waste management: prevention first, followed by reuse, recycling and energy recovery. Besides, the methodologies used to assess the CO2 balance of waste management options need to be harmonised across Europe”.

The international conference on waste and climate change will share best practice in efficient waste management across Europe and assess the impact on greenhouse gases emissions. The conference sessions will cover the following topics:

  • the impact of waste management on climate change,
  • life cycle analysis and other methods of impact assessment,
  • energy balance of waste prevention and reuse,
  • energy balance of recycling,
  • energy balance of organic and residual waste management,
  • energy balance of waste collection and transport.

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