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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Carbon footprint reduction potential of waste management strategies in tourism

Obersteiner, Gudrun; Gollnow, Sebastian; Eriksson, Mattias


Tourism is one of the major economic factors contributing to growth and jobs worldwide. The number of international travellers has increased more than 50-fold in the past 70 years. However, the contribution of tourism to (municipal) waste generation is also large and is increasing, accompanied by an increase in some environmental and socio-economic impacts. An average value of 1.67 kg waste is now generated per tourist (Obersteiner et al., 2017). Waste prevention and recycling should therefore be major objectives in tourist waste management by municipal authorities.Within the EU H2020-funded project "URBANWASTE - Urban Strategies for Waste Management in Tourist Cities", eco-innovative waste prevention and management strategies were implemented in 10 pilot cities with high levels of tourism, in order to reduce urban waste production and improve municipal waste management. This study examined the potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings for three selected waste prevention and treatment options: food waste prevention, reductions in single use plastic and increased separate collection and recycling of waste. Benefits were expressed per kg waste prevented or diverted higher up the waste hierarchy and per 1000 tourists.The measures achieved potential GHG emission savings of between 4 and 189 kg CO2-eq. per 1000 tourists, depending on local conditions such as the existing waste management system. Measures tackling food waste reduction and separate collection had low emissions associated with the measure itself, whereas for assessed measures reducing the use of single use plastics by providing reusable alternatives, emissions associated with the measures were relatively high. This was due to the emissions associated with the production of the alternative reusable products. Influencing factors reducing the carbon footprint of waste management in tourism other than the kind of waste focused on were the existing waste management system (especially for biowaste) as well as the practicability and scalability of measures under the divers regional circumstances.


Tourism; Waste prevention; LCA

Published in

Environmental Development
2021, Volume: 39, article number: 100617
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    Associated SLU-program

    Food Waste

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
    Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
    Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

    Publication identifier


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