Carbon storage by solid waste deposition

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Organic waste components, such as yard trimmings, food discards, and paper are not completely decomposed by the microbial processes, especially by anaerobic bacteria. Thus residues of organics which under normal natural conditions would be decomposed over time in the photosynthetic cycle remain in the landfill. Therefore the amount of carbon stored in the landfill body is considered to be an anthropogenic sink of carbon which reduces the burden of CO2 emissions.

The amount of plastics which remain in the landfill also means storage of carbon. However, it is not counted as a sink, since it is of fossil origin.

Table 12.9 indicates the carbon storage efficiency of some selected organic residues in landfills.

Table 12.9 Carbon storage potential of waste components

Waste component

Amount of carbon stored (t CO2-eq./wet ton)

Corrugated cardboard


Magazines/Third class mail



Climate Effects of Waste Management

Waste component

Amount of carbon stored (t CO2-eq./wet ton)



Office paper


Food discards








Mixed MSW


However it is to be mentioned that an even better climate effect would be possible if the material was recycled instead of its deposition in a landfill (see figure 12.2).

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