Information Sheet 45: Actions to maximise reduction of methane emissions from waste and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

Without significant cost or effort, the upgrading of municipal and waste water treatment facilities and the co-treatment of trade waste to produce biogas can contribute an additional 3.0 PJ of energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions of 515 kt CO2-e pa by 2050.  If national zero organic waste to landfill policies are enacted and agriculture is required to treat farm wastes to avoid runoff of nutrients into waterways then significantly more greenhouse gas emission reductions can be achieved.  Complete diversion of domestic, commercial and industrial food waste from landfill to newly build anaerobic digestion facilities has a potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by further 789 kt CO2-e pa by 2050, or 1,296 kt CO2-e if domestic green waste is included.

Anaerobic digestion has therefore the potential to eliminate 1,811 kt CO2-e pa by 2050. This all can be achieved using a well-established technology and existing waste materials with many other associated environmental and socio-economic benefits. The biogas can be used to generate electricity, produce heat, used as a vehicle fuel and a feedstock for manufacture of high value bio-based materials, further offsetting greenhouse gas emissions by substituting carbon-intensive fuels and resources.

The following measures complementary to the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme would encourage increased greenhouse gas emissions reduction from waste by use of waste-to-energy technologies to produce biogas and other products, and assist with transformation towards a net-zero emissions economy. The list is a mix of what could best be done by a partnership of Government and business.

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