Why Measuring Waste GHG Emissions Matters


by | Aug 9, 2016

landfillAccounting for greenhouse gas emissions from waste isn’t as straightforward as, say, measuring those from corporate fleets. But as stakeholders increasingly demand companies reduce their carbon footprint — and firms seek zero-waste accreditation — tracking and disclosing waste GHG emissions is key.

To help companies track more accurate data on GHG emissions from their trash, waste management startup Rubicon Global has teamed up with data company Trucost.

“This partnership allows Rubicon customers confidence that their waste and recycling team is accurately measuring their monthly GHG emissions and GHG savings from recycling, composting or anaerobic digestion,” David Rachelson, Rubicon Global’s director of sustainability told Environmental Leader. “Organizations can use that data for internal and external sustainability reporting, including corporate sustainability reports and to pursue zero-waste or other environmental certifications.

Rubicon, the “Uber of trash,” connects companies with independent commercial waste haulers that bid for their business. Once its haulers get the trash, Rubicon then works with its vendor network to recycle, repurpose or convert to energy the materials it has collected. It also shares the revenue from recyclables with the companies generating the waste. Rubicon says this cloud-based business model drives down waste management costs and creates potential new revenue streams for its customers.

Though its new partnership with Trucost, Rubicon reviews and verifies calculations of its customers’ GHG emissions from waste sent to landfills as well as monthly emissions savings from recycling, composting or anaerobic digestion.

GHG emissions vary depending on the type of waste material — such as plastics or organics — and how the waste is disposed of — such as landfilled, recycled, composted, anaerobically digested or incinerated.

“One of the challenges with measuring GHG emissions from waste is simply keeping track of all the data,” Trucost senior VP Libby Bernick told Environmental Leader. “GHG emissions will vary depending on the kind of waste, whether it’s disposed or recycled or composted, and even where it is disposed. It’s important that any reporting framework take all those variables into consideration, and Rubicon Global’s does that.”

Another challenge, Bernick adds, is accurately accounting for waste that is diverted from landfills. “Some approaches consider diverted waste as having zero GHG emissions,” she explained. “Because there actually are GHG emissions associated with recycling, it’s important to take this into consideration and not overstate avoided GHG emissions from recycling. Rubicon Global’s accounting framework quantifies these emissions, and provides for more accurate estimates.”

Rachelson says the partnership addresses another major issue for waste GHG emissions: transparency.

“The traditional landfill companies have not tracked waste or GHG emissions,” he said. “The industry has lacked transparency across the board for centuries. Rubicon’s technology and vendor platform has disrupted the marketplace by giving businesses of all sizes another option, one that is not incentivized by using landfill assets. Trucost’s verification of Rubicon’s data gives our customers confidence that their waste and emissions data is accurate.”

Of course, the first step to reducing waste and emissions is to accurately measure them. But it’s also a necessary component of zero waste certification, increasingly sought by sustainability minded companies and boosted by local laws and incentives such as New York City’s zero waste challenge. As this trend continues to grow, we expect to see more services such as this one offered by Rubicon and Trucost.


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