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Landfill Improvements Lead To 89% Reduction In Council Emissions


Changes to the way methane gas is captured at landfill sites have helped reduce Nelson City Council’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 89% since 2017.

In 2020, Council started work to increase the number of methane ‘wells’ at landfill sites, raising the number from 20 to 50. A methane ‘well’ captures methane so that it can be reused or destroyed, preventing its release from the landfill into the atmosphere.

“We worked out that methane emissions from landfill were the primary source of GHG emitted by Council operations. Targeting our efforts here would give us very strong results and I am pleased to say we’ve achieved a pretty significant reduction,” says Group Manager Infrastructure Alec Louverdis.

Since the 2017/18 financial year, Council emissions have reduced from 72,904 tCO2 to 7,892 (FY 22/23).

“We’re not stopping there. We’re looking to use more of the methane captured at landfill in ways that ensure the gas is not released to the atmosphere. An example might be increasing the current supply to Nelson Hospital as an alternative heating solution.”

Crunching the numbers:

To measure Council’s emissions, we first had to identify the sources of greenhouse gases (GHG) across Council facilities such as waste, electricity, diesel, petrol, air travel, LPG, paper use, fertilizer use, accommodation, taxi, refrigerants, and emissions from the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

This data is now collected yearly and forms the basis of our work to reduce Council operational emissions.

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Council has adopted targets for Council’s own greenhouse gas emissions in line with national standards, which are split between biogenic methane emissions and all other GHG emissions.

The target for biogenic methane emissions is a 24-47% reduction by 2050. Work at our landfills means that we are currently achieving that target.

“This was an innovative approach to reducing Council’s emissions that’s brought about some significant results for Council,” says Climate Change Taskforce Chair Aaron Stallard.

“Tackling climate change at a local level will require buy-in from organisations and businesses right across Nelson and it’s important for Council to show leadership in this area.”

A Climate Change Advisory Group made up of community members and experts, and supported by Council, is developing a Climate Change Strategy and there will be wider community engagement on this later in the year.

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