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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.

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Results

In this section, emissions data for a number of materials is analysed with respect to specific system boundaries, and averages are proposed (Sections 5.1–5.6). The materials for which data is considered useful and of adequate quality for the project were glass, aluminium, steel, plastic, paper and organic waste (see Section 3 for selection criteria). Data for secondary and primary production, and the calculated difference between them, are presented for all materials (cf. Figure 2). For plastic, paper and organic waste, incineration data is also included, and to be able to compare systems for material recycling and incineration, data for separate energy supply is added. This amount of energy supplied is the same as supplied from incineration (cf. Figure 3). Finally, the proposed averages for all materials analysed are presented and the collected results described (5.7).

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