Climate Benefits of Material Recycling

Inventory of Average Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Denmark, Norway and Sweden

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The purpose of this project is to compare emissions of greenhouse gases from material recycling with those from virgin material production, both from a material supply perspective and from a recycling system perspective. The method for estimating emissions and climate benefits is based on a review, followed by a selection, of the most relevant publications on life cycle assessment (LCA) of materials for use in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The proposed averages show that emissions from material recycling are lower in both perspectives, comparing either material supply or complete recycling systems. The results can be used by companies and industry associations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden to communicate the current climate benefits of material recycling in general. They may also contribute to discussions on a societal level, as long as their average and historic nature is recognised.




This project emanates from discussions with recycling companies active in Sweden and their industry association, The Swedish Recycling Industries’ Association (Återvinningsindustrierna, ÅI). The discussion was partly fed by a pre-study performed at the University of Gävle in 2012, which pointed out that current figures used in Sweden for estimation or calculation of the environmental benefit of material recycling suffered from a number of shortcomings related to the underlying methodology (Hillman, 2013). Accordingly, the intention was to review and assess available studies to come up with a set of data that could be proposed for communicating the greenhouse gas performance of current recycling services, to be used by industry, organisations, and policy-makers.


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