Global methane emissions from pit latrines

Environ Sci Technol. 2014;48(15):8727-34. doi: 10.1021/es501549h. Epub 2014 Jul 15.


Pit latrines are an important form of decentralized wastewater management, providing hygienic and low-cost sanitation for approximately one-quarter of the global population. Latrines are also major sources of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4) from the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter in pits. In this study, we develop a spatially explicit approach to account for local hydrological control over the anaerobic condition of latrines and use this analysis to derive a set of country-specific emissions factors and to estimate global pit latrine CH4 emissions. Between 2000 and 2015 we project global emissions to fall from 5.2 to 3.8 Tg y(-1), or from ∼ 2% to ∼ 1% of global anthropogenic CH4 emissions, due largely to urbanization in China. Two and a half billion people still lack improved sanitation services, however, and progress toward universal access to improved sanitation will likely drive future growth in pit latrine emissions. We discuss modeling results in the context of sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene development and consider appropriate technologies to ensure hygienic sanitation while limiting CH4 emissions. We show that low-CH4 on-site alternatives like composting toilets may be price competitive with other CH4 mitigation measures in organic waste sectors, with marginal abatement costs ranging from 57 to 944 $/ton carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) in Africa and 46 to 97 $/ton CO2e in Asia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Developing Countries*
  • Groundwater
  • Hygiene
  • Methane / analysis*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Sanitation / economics
  • Toilet Facilities*
  • Urbanization
  • Wastewater / chemistry


  • Waste Water
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Methane