Reducing Emissions with Zero Waste
The urgency of our climate crisis requires an all hands-on-deck approach that must include Zero Waste. Zero Waste programs and systems can provide needed emission reductions while also creating healthier communities and green jobs. In fact, adopting a Zero Waste approach could reduce emissions from waste by as much as 84%.
Our Waste Crisis and Climate Change
It’s no secret that climate change poses an existential threat to the Earth. As the planet continues to warm, we increasingly face a dystopian future complete with higher sea levels, intense flooding, prolonged droughts and wildfires, excessive heatwaves, and more intense storms. Addressing climate change means cutting emissions across the board. This includes the waste sector.
The waste we generate and how it’s managed is a significant contributor to climate change. When organic waste like food, wood, or paper breaks down in a landfill, it emits methane into the atmosphere. Landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions globally, after oil and gas systems, and agricultural systems. Burning waste isn’t any better. Not only does burning waste emit toxic and dangerous air pollutants, but it also damages our climate. In fact, burning waste – even burning it to create electricity – emits more emissions than it replaces. This means that so-called waste-to-energy plants increase emissions, not reduce them.
What’s more, continuously producing single-use products requires a tremendous amount of energy. This is especially true for single-use plastics. Nearly all plastic is produced from fossil fuels. And without action now, the U.S. plastic industry’s contribution to climate change is on track to surpass the emissions from coal-fired power plants.
of global methane emissions come from the waste industry.
Advancing the Solution
The clock is ticking. We need to address climate change now. Presently, the waste industry accounts for 20% of global methane emissions. But we can change that. How? By saying goodbye to burning and burying waste, and hello to a Zero Waste Future.
Emphasizing waste reduction can significantly slash emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 42% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with producing, processing, transporting, and disposing of goods. Abandoning single-use packaging and replacing it with reusable and refillable models can cut greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing and packaging goods by up to 85%.
What’s more, expanding composting, improving recycling, and forcing producers to redesign their products, can result in drastic emissions reductions – all while building healthy and resilient local communities.
Composting and Climate
Composting keeps organic waste out of landfills where it would produce methane. Even better, the emissions savings from keeping organic waste out of the landfill is only one of the benefits associated with composting. When compost is applied to soil it acts as a carbon sink that soaks up emissions currently in the atmosphere. In fact, compost can increase carbon absorption in soil by up to 12.6%.
Transitioning away from climate-damaging and toxic production, consumption, and waste disposal practices won’t be easy. But the status quo isn’t working for our climate, environment, or our pocketbooks. Who is it working for? The waste industry and large corporations.
At Just Zero, we know change can and must happen. We are committed to implementing zero waste solutions across the country that help us in the fight against climate change.