Biological treatment to ‘enormously’ reduce landfill methane, Zero Waste Europe report shows


19 Jun 2024

Methane report PR

Brussels, 19 June 2024 – A new report commissioned by the environmental network Zero Waste Europe reveals that biological treatment can significantly reduce methane emissions from landfills.

Developed by Equnimator, the report entitled, “Reducing waste management’s contribution to climate change: from post-landfilling methane capture to pre-landfill methane prevention,” highlights biological stabilisation as a promising waste management approach, offering a more sustainable and climate-friendly alternative to conventional practices. 

Biological stabilisation, similar to composting, significantly reduces methane generation before landfilling, making gas capture systems redundant. Gas capture occurs at the end of the process after methane has already been produced; it has proven to be expensive, complex, and a less effective solution that fails to address the core issue of methane generation. 

Contrary to the widely held belief that landfilling is worse for the global climate than incineration, the report reveals this is only true for landfills with low gas capture rates and untreated waste. When evaluating waste management systems using global warming potential (GWP) metrics, the report shows that landfills are less detrimental to global temperatures than incineration in the long run, especially when waste is biologically treated.

Dominic Hogg, Director of Equnimator, states: 

Comparing waste management systems using GWP metrics is problematic because the GWP value varies depending on the selected time horizon for each gas’s impact, which is often selected arbitrarily. Many advocate for early action on methane by using GWP20, implying it is a ‘superior’ choice. Instead, we should focus on the impact of greenhouse gases on global temperature, and aim to minimise the maximum contribution to temperature change made by waste management practices.”

By treating waste to generate minimal methane before landfilling, this approach produces less leachate, simplifying landfill management and reducing environmental risks. Furthermore, this practice not only extracts additional recyclables from leftover mixed waste but also aligns with circular economy principles.

Janek Vahk, Zero Pollution Policy Manager at Zero Waste Europe, states:

“We need a global paradigm shift; there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be doing biological stabilisation everywhere. Especially in the Global South, where low-tech and cost-effective systems like on-site windrowing could be easily implemented. When complemented with material recovery, its potential both in terms of energy and greenhouse gas savings is enormous.”

The report underscores the urgency of adopting Material Recovery and Biological Treatment (MRBT) systems as a cornerstone of waste management strategies, emphasising that energy derived from waste should not be considered “renewable”. 


Notes to the editor

Press contacts 

Sean Flynn, Media Outreach & Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe, [email protected] or [email protected] / +32 471 96 55 93

Janek Vahk, Zero Pollution Policy Manager, [email protected]  

About Zero Waste Europe 

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) is the European network of communities, local leaders, experts, and change agents working towards a better use of resources and the elimination of waste in our society. We advocate for sustainable systems; for the redesign of our relationship with resources; and for a global shift towards environmental justice, accelerating a just transition towards zero waste for the benefit of people and the planet.