Climate Change 2001:
Working Group III: Mitigation
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3.7.4 Regional Differences

Individual countries have adopted different strategies and innovations in waste management that reduce GHG emissions. It is not possible to provide a comprehensive description in this chapter, but a sampling of different national and regional strategies is summarized below. Germany

Germany promotes recycling through the world’s most stringent return requirements for packaging and many other goods, including automobiles; materials management is the responsibility of the manufacturer through the end of product life, including ultimate disposal or reuse of the materials from which it is made. This has led to high recycling rates, but also to high monetary costs, prompting ongoing controversy in Germany and elsewhere.

Every year Germany generates about 30 million tonnes of solid municipal waste. German landfills emit yearly 1.2-1.9Mt of methane, accounting for 25%-35% of Germany’s methane emissions and about 3%-7% of national GWP. To meet the provisions of a 1993 law requiring that by 2005 all wastes disposed in landfills have to have a total organic carbon content of less than 5% will require incineration. Under this law methane emissions are projected to drop by two-thirds by 2005, and by 80% by 2015 (Angerer and Kalb, 1996). USA

The USA produces about 200 million tonnes of municipal waste each year. In 1997, 55% was landfilled, 28% was recycled or composted, and 17% was incinerated (US EPA, 1999b). The 11.6Mt of methane emitted by landfills accounts for 37% of anthropogenic methane emissions, or about 4% of national GHG emissions. US regulations now require the largest landfills to collect and combust LFG, which is projected to reduce emissions to 9.1Mt in 2010 (US EPA, 1999a). There are more than 150 LFG-to-energy projects in operation, and 200 more in development, promoted by government technical support and tax incentives (Kerr, 1998; Landfill, 1998).

If all the material currently recycled in the USA were instead landfilled, national GHG emissions would increase by 2%, even with the new LFG regulations (Ackerman, 2000). More than 9,000 municipal recycling programmes collect household materials, and numerous commercial enterprises also recycle material. Many innovative uses of recycled materials are reducing emissions in manufacturing; for example, remanufacture of commercial carpet from recovered fibres lowers energy inputs by more than 90%, and some products are now said to have zero net GHG impacts (Hawken et al., 1999). Japan

With a large waste stream and very limited land area, Japan relies heavily on both recycling and incineration as alternatives to landfilling. Widespread participation in recycling recovers not only easily recycled materials such as metals and glass, but also large quantities of unconventional recycled materials, such as aseptic packaging (juice boxes).

Japan has approximately 1,900 waste incineration facilities of which 171 produce electric power with a capacity of 710MW. A major new commitment to create high efficiency waste to energy facilities has been announced by the Japanese government. In 1998 a corrosion resistant, high temperature, fluidized bed WTE facility achieved 30% conversion efficiency to electricity with low dioxin and stack gas emissions. The facility can accept mixed municipal and industrial waste including plastics and recovers ash for road foundations and recyclable metals (NEDO, 1999). India

Recycling is a very prevalent part of Indian society. Unskilled labourers, working in the informal economy, collect newspapers, books, plastic, bottles, and cans and sell them to commercial recyclers. In recent years a shift from collecting for reuse to collecting for recycling has taken place. Because of changing lifestyles and increased consumption of goods, the use of recyclables has increased dramatically over the past few years (from 9.6% in 1971 to 17.2% in 1995). Paper accounts for 6% and ash and fine earth for 40%. Total compostable matter is over 42% of the waste stream.

Plastic in the waste stream increased from 0.7% in 1971 to 4%-9% in 1996, and is expected to grow rapidly. Though current consumption is 1.8 kg/capita/yr compared to a world average of 18 kg and a US average of 80 kg, India recycled between 40-80% of its plastics, compared to 10%-15% in developed nations. There are about 2000 plastic recycling facilities in India, which often cause serious environmental harm as a result of outdated technology. Current per capita paper consumption is 3.6 kg, compared to a world average of 45.6 kg. Paper consumption is projected to increase to 8 kg by 2021. India imports approximately 25% of its paper fibre as waste paper from the US and Europe.

Almost 90% of solid waste is deposited in low-lying dumps and is neither compacted nor covered; 9% is composted. In 1997, landfill emissions were India’s third largest GHG contributors, equivalent to burning 11.6Mt of coal (Gupta et al., 1998). China

China generated 108 million tonnes of municipal waste in 1996, an amount that is increasing every year by 8%-10%. In 1995, the GEF approved an action plan and specific projects for methane recovery from municipal waste (Li, 1999).

According to a survey of ten cities, the per capita waste generation averages 1.6kg/day, but in some rapidly developing cities in southern China, per capita waste production is almost as high as in developed countries (e.g., Shenzhen, 2.62 kg/day). Between 60%-90% of Chinese municipal solid waste is high moisture organic material with a low heat value. The composition of waste is changing, with cinder and soil content decreasing while plastic, metal, glass and organic waste are increasing. Kitchen waste has replaced coal cinder as the largest component, raising the water content. By the end of 1995, incineration treatment capacity was 0.9% of total MSW.

Estimates are that in 2010 China will produce 290 million tonnes of MSW. If 70% is disposed of in landfills with methane collection, the landfill gas recovered could be equivalent to 40 to 280 billion m3 of natural gas (Li, 1999). Africa

The average annual solid waste generation in Africa is estimated to be about 0.3 to 0.5t/ capita and for a population for Africa of about 740 million in 1997, the total continent’s annual generated waste could be as much as 200 million tonnes. It is estimated that anything from 30%–50% if the waste is not subjected to proper disposal, presenting severe health and environmental hazards (INFORSE, 1997). With few financial resources, and population increasing at 3% per annum, with the most rapid growth in urban regions from migration, this poses a serious challenge for waste management in the future.

An analysis of energy content of MSW generated in South Africa alone indicates that if one-third were utilized for combustion energy it would be equivalent to 2.6% of the total electricity distributed in 1990 (529Million GJ) by the country’s largest utility, ESKOM. Technologies are not yet available on the continent to make this a reality.

Mitigating CH4 through extraction of landfill gas for energy use has been estimated to cost below US$10/tCeq in Africa (Zhou, 1999). Both incineration of MSW and extraction of landfill gas have significant potential to reduce emissions of methane in Africa, and will provide the co-benefit of addressing the severe waste management problem on the continent.

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