Waste management - Mitigation

The most important source of emissions in waste management is methane released from landfill sites. The methane that passes through the surface layers of landfill sites is about half of all Finland’s methane emissions. In addition, methane is released by composting biodegradable waste. Direct greenhouse gas emissions caused by waste management are from the energy consumption used in the transport and processing of waste.

Consumer behaviour and product design have the greatest significance on the emissions of waste management

Waste management returns the waste material produced and energy used in consumption back into production processes and dumps the part that cannot be put to beneficial use in landfill sites. After sorting paper, cardboard, metals, glass and other separately collected waste, what is left is mixed waste of varying quality.

The largest environmental effects of materials that end up as waste are generated in the production stage

The average Finn produces about 300 kilogrammes of mixed waste and a total of over 500 kilos of waste a year. The greatest impact on the environment from this waste is generated when the products are manufactured and transported to the shop and finally taken home. Production processes, product design and consumer behaviour thus have a greater significance with regard to greenhouse gas emissions than waste management approaches. The consumer determines through their behaviour in sorting waste, however, how well the materials and energy contained in waste can be recycled.

Recycling waste as raw material reduces the consumption of natural resources

Reprocessing once used materials as raw material often uses less energy and natural resources than the manufacture of a new product from virgin raw materials. Metal, glass and clean plastic are suitable almost as they are for the production of new metal, glass and plastic products. Recycled paper is a suitable raw material for new newsprint and tissue papers. Biological waste can be treated in a bio-gas plant and can be composted to produce soil or a source of nutrients for fields. Paperboard and cardboard can be used to produce sleeves and board for packing.

Waste can be used to moderate climate change by using it in energy generation instead of fossil fuels. Many kinds of waste can be used as fuels just as they are. In addition biodegradable waste can be used to produce gaseous fuels by treating it in a bio-gas plant.