For Immediate Release
Hidden Opportunities to Address Methane from Municipal Solid Waste Can Help Solve the Climate Crisis, Report Finds
Climate intelligence reveals opportunities and underscores best practices to cut global waste sector emissions — essential to hitting Global Methane Pledge goals.
Boulder, CO — July 20, 2022
Today, RMI, Carbon Mapper, and Integrated Global Greenhouse Gas Information System (IG3IS) released a report revealing the hidden opportunities accessible through addressing methane emissions from municipal solid waste, which includes managed and unmanaged landfills and dump sites. The report highlights solutions that can drastically reduce methane’s powerful global warming impact now as a down payment on a safer climate future.
One ton of methane is more than 80 times more powerful in its global warming impact than one ton of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The waste sector is the third-largest source of atmospheric methane (after oil and gas and livestock digestion), accounting for 18 percent of human-caused methane emissions globally. Municipal solid waste (MSW) accounts for the majority of these emissions.
“When it comes to waste, out of sight is out of mind. We don’t think about what happens to discarded waste once it is picked up by collection trucks. In 2020, MSW methane emissions were equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 950 million passenger vehicles. Taking immediate action to curb these emissions in this decade is critical to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change,” said Ebun Ayandele, a senior associate with RMI and lead author of the report.
To date, waste methane emissions have flown under the radar, and their contribution to the climate threat has largely eluded public awareness. Advanced satellite and airborne remote sensing technologies are providing improved quantification and visualization of methane from MSW facilities. This includes expanding evidence of cases where some facilities generate much higher methane emissions than predicted by landfill models for managed MSW facilities due to highly variable management practices. Advances in waste site methane monitoring can contribute to more accurate greenhouse gas inventories and make more of these emissions visible and therefore addressable by operators.
“We have an expanding set of real-world examples where precisely identifying the sources of methane emissions and communicating this data to decision makers can yield concrete and timely mitigation efforts. Carbon Mapper’s work to pinpoint emissions in the waste sector — starting with our airborne observations and soon with satellites — can contribute improved methane intelligence to identify the most effective mitigation solutions in this often-overlooked sector,” said Kenzie Huffman, director of strategy and partnerships with Carbon Mapper and a coauthor of the report.
The report highlights five areas where MSW methane emissions can be reduced:
- Preventing food waste from being generated along the entire supply chain
- Diverting organic waste from landfills via source separation and organics recovery technologies to manage and convert waste into beneficial products or commodities
- Rehabilitating dump sites to well-managed sanitary landfills with gas capture systems while also improving public health and safety
- Optimizing landfill design and operation to enhance gas capture systems and minimize the release of methane
- Monitoring and quantifying emissions across landfills and organics processing facilities to pinpoint emissions sources, enable timely mitigation solutions, and validate implemented abatement strategies
“We must cut CO2 emissions to stabilize climate in the long run, but human-induced warming is already disrupting life on the planet today. Cutting methane emissions is the fastest and most efficient way to slow the rate of warming now, and the mitigation and monitoring framework in this report is the basis for a coordinated global initiative for MSW methane emission reduction in line with global climate action to reduce oil and gas methane emissions,” said Phil DeCola, co-chair of the WMO Integrated Global Greenhouse Gas Information System (IG3IS).
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RMI is an independent nonprofit founded in 1982 that transforms global energy systems through market-driven solutions to align with a 1.5°C future and secure a clean, prosperous, zero-carbon future for all. We work in the world’s most critical geographies and engage businesses, policymakers, communities, and NGOs to identify and scale energy system interventions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent by 2030. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.
About Carbon Mapper
Carbon Mapper is a non-profit organization focused on facilitating timely action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Its mission is to fill gaps in the emerging global ecosystem of methane and CO2 monitoring systems by delivering data at facility scale that is precise, timely, and accessible to empower science-based decision making and action. The organization is leading the development of the Carbon Mapper constellation of satellites supported by a public-private partnership composed of Planet, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, the California Air Resources Board, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and RMI—with funding from High Tide Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Grantham Foundation, and other philanthropic donors. Learn more at carbonmapper.org and follow us on Twitter @carbonmapper.
The Integrated Global Greenhouse Gas Information System (IG3IS) is an initiative of the UN World Meteorological Organization working to document and promote the use of best-practice, scientific methods to enhance the capacity of nations, states, cities, and industries to target significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction opportunities and track progress towards their reduction goals. IG3IS methods combine and analyze data from atmospheric measurements and socioeconomic activity for more accurate and consistent GHG emissions estimates at scales needed to inform and manage climate action. Since gaining approval of its Science Implementation Plan in June 2019, IG3IS has supported new projects to better inform and enable emission reduction of nations, cities, and industries, and has won endorsement for the use of its framework and methods by international organizations such as the UNFCC, the IPCC, and the Committee on Earth Observing Satellites. Learn more at ig3is.wmo.int.