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J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2011 May;61(5):480-93.

Greenhouse gas emissions from waste management--assessment of quantification methods.

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  • 1Department of Civil Engineering, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Of the many sources of urban greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, solid waste is the only one for which management decisions are undertaken primarily by municipal governments themselves and is hence often the largest component of cities' corporate inventories. It is essential that decision-makers select an appropriate quantification methodology and have an appreciation of methodological strengths and shortcomings. This work compares four different waste emissions quantification methods, including Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1996 guidelines, IPCC 2006 guidelines, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Waste Reduction Model (WARM), and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities-Partners for Climate Protection (FCM-PCP) quantification tool. Waste disposal data for the greater Toronto area (GTA) in 2005 are used for all methodologies; treatment options (including landfill, incineration, compost, and anaerobic digestion) are examined where available in methodologies. Landfill was shown to be the greatest source of GHG emissions, contributing more than three-quarters of total emissions associated with waste management. Results from the different landfill gas (LFG) quantification approaches ranged from an emissions source of 557 kt carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) (FCM-PCP) to a carbon sink of -53 kt CO2e (EPA WARM). Similar values were obtained between IPCC approaches. The IPCC 2006 method was found to be more appropriate for inventorying applications because it uses a waste-in-place (WIP) approach, rather than a methane commitment (MC) approach, despite perceived onerous data requirements for WIP. MC approaches were found to be useful from a planning standpoint; however, uncertainty associated with their projections of future parameter values limits their applicability for GHG inventorying. MC and WIP methods provided similar results in this case study; however, this is case specific because of similarity in assumptions of present and future landfill parameters and quantities of annual waste deposited in recent years being relatively consistent.

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