Carbon Quantification Approaches in Waste

There are a number of different approaches to measuring carbon from waste management services, and which you should choose will depend on the level of detail needed and the reporting purpose of the activity. Here is a summary of some of the key ones…

Footprinting / Scope-based

DEFRA / BEIS Factors

This approach utilises Defra/BEIS factors that are based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Impacts of waste management processes (e.g., transportation, treatment, recovery and disposal) can be quantified. However, the benefits realised from facilitating recycling and recovery are not currently present for most commonly recycled materials. Whilst assignment of these benefits, in terms of reporting, would apply to the user of these materials, for local authorities, it is beneficial to look at the full picture of the recycling and re-use benefits ‘facilitated’ by local authorities. Tools based on this include the newly released Local Partnerships model.

Zero Waste Scotland Metrics

Provides ‘per tonne’ factors for common municipal wastes. For ease of useability, and often lack of readily available data, transport has been lumped into the factors. This provides an easy and accessible way to calculate carbon impacts (and relative benefits) of recycling, treating and disposing of waste, however if more accurate outputs are required it may be better to separate out the transport elements and substitute with actuals.


These metrics developed by WRAP in collaboration with DEFRA have different system boundaries to the DEFRA/BEIS approach above. In addition, they also capture the carbon saved by recycling/composting. These factors also underpinned the recent waste-related carbon statistics released by DEFRA recently, about which we have also written before.

Bespoke-Lifecycle Assessments

Lifecycle Analysis ‘Calculators’ based on expansive and large databases give the user the option to ‘personalise’ and build lifecycle models from the ground up for waste management services as well as individual waste materials. These tend to be more accurate than metric/factor-based approaches as the models can really be tailored to the authority’s specifics (e.g., type of collection vehicle, distances travelled, treatment/disposal routes and process efficiencies/energy consumption at the facilities etc.).

FRM Offerings

Depending on the needs of our clients, we offer a variety of services including bespoke Spreadsheet-based ‘calculators’ tailored to reflect a variety of scopes (collection only, collection and disposal) and services (e.g., HWRCs, transfer stations). We also provide a variety of factors housed within the models to match the scope of the assessment and allow our clients to report on emissions and plan their service as and how it is appropriate. Moreover, we also carry out lifecycle analysis using a variety of tools, for waste management services and specific waste materials.

Frith Resource Management provide technical advice to Councils on waste strategy, options appraisals, public consultation, carbon modelling, service governance and procurement. See or call 01746 552423 or email