A study of Aalborg in Northern Denmark has measured the impact of waste management changes and found that cities can not only control greenhouse gas emissions, but also reverse the effect by producing energy while saving on toxic emissions.
Researchers Tjalfe Poulsen and Jens Aage Hansen from Aalborg University in Denmark that conducted the study, came up with an analysis on the impact created by waste management systems on greenhouse gas emissions. This long term overview was obtained from the historical data of the municipality of Aalborg. The entire study was based on the assessment carried out on organic waste that includes plastic and paper along with food waste, sewage sludge and yard waste.
In 1970 Aalborg’s municipal organic waste management system resulted in net greenhouse gas emissions with methane from landfill accounting for almost 100%. But between 1970 and 2005, the city changed its waste treatment strategy to include yard waste composting, with the city’s remaining organic waste incinerated for combined heat and power production. After the implementation of smarter waste management, emissions dropped by 80 %.
Researchers predict that in the year 2020 improvements will be brought about by increasing the efficiency of the incineration process and anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic indicates the absence of a common electron acceptor such as nitrate, sulfate or oxygen. Anaerobic digestion is the harnessed and contained, naturally occurring process of anaerobic decomposition. Reduction in the usage of energy in wastewater treatment and separating food waste for anaerobic digestion are other factors that are expected to bring about improvements in the year 2020.