Environmental impacts associated to different waste treatments are of interest in the decision-making process at local, regional and international level. However, all the environmental burdens of an organic waste biological treatment are not always considered. Real data on gaseous emissions released from full-scale composting plants are difficult to obtain. These emissions are related to the composting technology and waste characteristics and therefore, an exhaustive sampling campaign is necessary to obtain representative and reliable data of a single plant. This work proposes a methodology to systematically determine gaseous emissions of a composting plant and presents the results obtained in the application of this methodology to a plant treating source-separated organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) for the determination of ammonia and total volatile organic compounds (VOC). Emission factors from the biological treatment process obtained for ammonia and VOC were 3.9 kg Mg OFMSW-1 and 0.206 kg Mg OFMSW-1 respectively. Emissions associated to energy use and production were also quantified (60.5 kg CO2 Mg OFMSW-1 and 0.66 kg VOC Mg OFMSW-1). Other relevant parameters such as energy and water consumption and amount of rejected waste were also determined. A new functional unit is presented to relate emission factors to the biodegradation efficiency of the composting process and consists in the reduction of the Respiration Index of the treated material. Using this new functional unit, the atmospheric emissions released from a composting plant are directly related to the plant specific efficiency. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.