CO2 reduction potential by the European waste management sector

(Source: Unsplash, Anne Nygard)

The research was conducted by Prognos and CE Delft.

The study uses 2018 figures as a benchmark and examines two projections in which the EU’s CO2 reduction potential in 2035 is compared, the projections analyzing waste management performance and recycling and disposal targets. landfill in EU27 and UK. The results show significant avoided CO2 emissions for the following 10 waste streams: paper, glass, plastics, ferrous metals, aluminium, wood, textiles, used tyres, bio-waste and residual waste/WDF (waste not collected separately and discharges from treatment of waste/fuels derived from waste).

In 2018, the waste industry was almost CO2 neutral for the waste streams mentioned above with only 13 Mt of net CO2eq emissions per year. This includes CO2 savings from manufacturing using waste-derived materials and energy.

By successfully applying current municipal waste legislation and the same recycling and landfill targets for industrial and commercial waste (projection 1) by 2035 in the EU27 + UK, the potential for avoidance of CO2 emissions is significantly improved to -137 Mt CO2eq, allowing a saving of 150 Mt CO2eq. The savings potential would almost double in the more ambitious projection 2. The current baseline net CO2 emissions of 13 Mt CO2eq in a 20-year perspective could drop to -283 Mt CO2eq of net avoided emissions, which would result in savings of 296 Mt CO2eq.

In both projections, using the 20-year perspective, the key to achieving maximum CO2 avoidance is to make full use of waste recycling and energy recovery capacities in the EU27 and the UK.

FEAD President Peter Kurth reiterates: “Effective waste management has the potential to make major contributions to the Paris Agreement. The climate challenge requires the full application of existing European legislation, reinforced by the EU Green Deal. We call for the full implementation of recycling and landfill targets, and we call on the European legislator to put in place new regulatory signals. Mandatory recycled content in products, enhanced eco-design, positive taxonomy rules for energy recovery to adequately cover residual waste, effective intra-EU waste transfer rules for recovery and recycling and strong public support for selective collection will be decisive. The entire waste management chain, represented by our four associations, is ready to commit to increased efforts and investments to realize the CO2 savings potential of a more circular economy.

Download the study


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