Methane emissions from landfill sites may be 50% lower than previous estimates

A DETR-sponsored study has estimated that methane emissions from UK landfill sites may be less than half the amount previously thought. But additional data will be required if more accurate emission figures are necessary.

The study, conducted by Europe’s largest environmental consultancy AEA Technology, estimates that just under 1 million tonnes of methane are currently emitted annually from UK landfill sites. That is a reduction from the 2 million tonnes previously estimated.

“It’s very hard to come up with a precise number of how much methane is emitted from landfills or from animals, especially if you are predicting into the future,” Dr Keith Brown, partner in strategic consulting at AEA Technology, told edie. “Therefore, there are wide error bounds with this study.”

Combining internationally-recognised modelling methodology and measurements taken at about 30 UK landfill sites, the AEA study is the first of its kind. “This is the first time that we’ve married modelling methodology with field measurements,” says Dr Brown. “But any model is only as good as the faithfulness with which it reflects the operations of the landfill sites and the availability of data.”

According to Brown, if more accurate methane emission figures are needed it will be necessary to increase the amount of data regarding:

  • the exact amount of waste entering landfills
  • the speed of decomposition
  • the number of methane gas collectors in operation at sites and information regarding their performance.

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