Climate Benefits of Material Recycling

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

image of Climate Benefits of Material Recycling

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.



Investigation context

There are a number of data choices that are central in life cycle assessments of waste treatment alternatives. Firstly, different technologies used in the processes pre-treatment, recycling and virgin material production imply differences in energy efficiency, emissions and the ratio between usable and recycled material. Secondly, the types and distances of transports affect the emissions from those parts of the life cycle. Finally, the type of heat and electricity used for the processes of pretreatment, recycling and virgin material production may have a large impact on the results. Also for complementary systems this may be crucial, for example when recycling is complemented with separate production of heat and electricity.


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