The systems used to manage municipal solid waste (MSW) in Germany and the UK have been compared on the basis of carbon equivalent emissions. The legislative background to MSW management in Germany emphasises recycling and recovery, while the UK continues to rely on much higher levels of landfill, relatively low use (∼9%) of energy from waste (EfW), with currently about 34% recycling and composting. Analysis indicates that the carbon emissions associated with current MSW management in the UK is approximately five times higher than that for Germany. UK management of MSW is calculated to produce 175 kg CO2 equivalents/t, while MSW in Germany generates 34 kg CO2 equivalents/t. These results show the benefits of German initiatives in waste management introduced over the past 20 years. To put these figures into perspective, the difference in CO2 emissions would be approximately equivalent to removing 1.2 million cars from roads in England and Wales. The potential for the UK to achieve the Waste Management Strategy targets through increased recycling/separation and landfill legislation is discussed.


  • Waste management;
  • Greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Recycling;
  • Landfill;
  • Energy from waste