Life cycle greenhouse gas inventory analysis of household waste management and food waste reduction activities in Kyoto, Japan

Matsuda, T.; Yano, J.; Hirai, Y.; Sakai, S. (2012) International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 17(6): 743-752

Source-separated collection of food waste has been reported to reduce the amount of household waste in several cities including Kyoto, Japan. Food waste can be reduced by various activities including preventing edible food loss, draining moisture, and home composting. These activities have different potentials for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. Therefore, we conducted a life-cycle inventory analysis of household waste management scenarios for Kyoto with a special emphasis on food waste reduction activities.

The primary functional unit of our study was "annual management of household combustible waste in Kyoto, Japan." Although some life-cycle assessment scenarios included food waste reduction measures, all of the scenarios had an identical secondary functional unit, "annual food ingestion (mass and composition) by the residents of Kyoto, Japan." We analyzed a typical incineration scenario (Inc) and two anaerobic digestion (dry thermophilic facilities) scenarios involving either source-separated collection (SepBio) or nonseparated collection followed by mechanical sorting (MecBio). We assumed that the biogas from anaerobic digestion was used for power generation. In addition, to evaluate the effects of waste reduction combined with separate collection, three food waste reduction cases were considered in the SepBio scenario: (1) preventing loss of edible food (PrevLoss); (2) draining moisture contents (ReducDrain); and (3) home composting (ReducHcom). In these three cases, we assumed that the household waste was reduced by 5%.

Results and discussion
The GHG emissions from the Inc, MecBio, and SepBio scenarios were 123.3, 119.5, and 118.6 Gg CO2-eq/year, respectively. Compared with the SepBio scenario without food waste reduction, the PrevLoss and ReducDrain cases reduced the GHG emissions by 17.1 and 0.5 Gg CO2-eq/year. In contrast, the ReducHcom case increased the GHG emissions by 2.1 Gg CO2-eq/year. This is because the biogas power production decreased due to the reduction in food waste, while the electricity consumption increased in response to home composting. Sensitivity analyses revealed that a reduction of only 1% of the household waste by food loss prevention has the same GHG reduction effect as a 31-point increase (from 50% to 81%) in the food waste separation rate.

We found that prevention of food losses enhanced by separate collection led to a significant reduction in GHG emissions. These findings will be useful in future studies designed to develop strategies for further reductions in GHG emissions.


Anaerobic digestion, Food loss prevention, Food waste, Greenhouse gas emission, Household waste, Life-cycle inventory, Waste reduction activities