Carbon study sets benchmark for waste management emissions

Wirral Council has reduced carbon emissions from its household waste and recycling operations by nearly 31,000 tonnes in what is thought to be the first impact assessment of its type.

In addition, the council has more than tripled its recycling and composting rate, from 12% in 2005-6 to just over 40% in 2010-11. The findings come from a carbon impact study undertaken by Biffa, which has managed Wirral’s waste collection services since 2006.

The research was carried out last year to assess the positive and negative effects of landfill methane production and related power generation, emissions from transport and MRF processing, and any displacing offset emissions.

It was discovered that the CO2 impact of Biffa’s recycling and waste services produced a net benefit equivalent to nearly 31,000 tonnes. As part of the research, the impact of landfill gas was calculated, along with transport emissions, MRF recovery processes and windrow composting.

Data analysis was also undertaken on Wirral’s waste and recycling composition, which comprised around 76,000 tonnes of landfilled waste, 31,000 tonnes of dry recyclables, almost 19,000 tonnes of organic recyclables, and 2,370 tonnes of street sweepings.

The study concluded that landfill-only waste disposal would produce 17,588 of CO2 – in comparison Wirral Council’s recycling efforts would have reduced carbon output by 12,370 tonnes, generating an overall CO2 reduction of 30,960 tonnes.

Commenting on the finding’s Biffa’s municipal director, Roger Edwards, said the calculation shows that maximising recycling and diversion from landfill actively contributes to cutting carbon outputs.

“When local authorities persuade residents to recycle more, they often do so primarily because they have to hit government-mandated targets. But we should never forget that the underlying prime reason for recycling has always been for sound environmental reasons, such as reducing dependence on virgin raw materials and cutting CO2.

“The Wirral analysis proves what can be achieved and gives us an excellent analytic model for the future.”

Carys Matthews

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