Life cycle assessment of methane emissions resulting from the UK’s biowaste management strategy

Main Presenter: Semra Bakkaloglu 

Co-Authors: Adam Hawkes

Methane emissions from the waste sector could account for 37% of total UK CH4 emissions[1]. Waste management strategies in the UK have changed recently as more waste is diverted from landfills to anaerobic digesters and composting facilities. Recent research suggests, however, that anaerobic digesters and composting facilities could be the main sources of methane emissions[2-4]. In this study, we combined mobile methane emissions data from waste treatment facilities to perform a life cycle assessment of current biowaste treatment and potential future prevention, including anaerobic digestion, in-vessel composting, incineration, and landfilling in the scenarios. We found that fugitive emissions from anaerobic digester have a significant impact on waste management strategies, with upgrading the biogas into biomethane being the best option for climate change mitigation if natural gas is replaced. Using these technologies, it is difficult to achieve net-zero emissions. We strongly recommend combining carbon capture and storage units with current waste treatments to achieve net-zero goal in the waste sector. These findings can help biowaste treatment operators, planners and policymakers in developing a sustainable biowaste management strategy.

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