In the past, biological and chemical processes involving the biogenic proportion of residual waste on refuse dumps gave rise to climate-damaging emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane. These emissions contributed significantly to development of the greenhouse effect.
A total of 1.5 million metric tons of methane were emitted from German landfills in 1990. Methane is 21 times more climate-damaging than carbon dioxide. Emissions were reduced to 0.5 million metric tons by 2004 thanks to a combination of factors, including reduction of waste dump capacities, utilisation of the emitted landfill gas and increased waste recycling in incineration plants.
Saving Primary Energy.
Waste treatment using highly efficient thermal processes helps to save on primary energy sources (coal, gas, petroleum), which in turn leads to less climate-relevant emissions. The amount of fossil energy carriers saved every year by making use of the energy contained in waste is equivalent to the energy normally consumed by 700,000 German citizens.
A proportion of the waste is moreover a source of renewable energy (wood, cardboard, paper). In the process of growing, plants and trees take up CO2 from the air, thereby removing it from the environment as it were. When such material is incinerated, the stored CO2 is released again, but does not give rise to any additional CO2 emission: it is climate-neutral.
Since 1990, climate-damaging emissions from waste management have dropped by 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This corresponds to the emissions by 2.5 million German citizens. This is why treating waste in highly modern thermal treatment plants with efficient utilisation of energy is a significant contribution to protecting the climate.