Reducing waste is ‘critical’ to reducing global warming

Changing the way the world handles waste is key to keeping warming below 1.5C, a group opposed to incineration has claimed.

A report by the Global Alliance for Alternatives to Incinerators (GAIA) indicates that the waste sector accounts for 20% of global methane emissions, but better management could reduce them by 84%.

He said introducing “zero waste” systems in major cities around the world would be one of the fastest and most affordable ways to reduce global warming.

Increased use of recycling and composting could reduce total emissions from the waste sector by more than 1.4 billion tons, the equivalent of removing all motor vehicles in the United States for one year, the group said.

Reducing emissions from waste could also significantly reduce emissions in other industrial sectors such as manufacturing and transportation, the report says, giving the example of making something from recycled aluminum, which uses 96% less energy than starting with raw materials.

Report co-author Neil Tangri said: “Better waste management is a solution to climate change staring us in the face.

“It doesn’t require flashy or expensive new technology – it’s just about paying more attention to what we produce and consume, and how we deal with it when it’s no longer needed.”

Tangri said previous climate talks had largely overlooked the potential for waste reforms, particularly to reduce methane.

Mariel Vilella, director of the global climate program at GAIA, said the COP 27 conference in Egypt in November offered “a unique opportunity to put waste firmly on the agenda. Without a concrete commitment from world leaders to zero waste, we will not be able to achieve the 1.5°C climate objective. »

GAIA’s report modeled the potential emission reductions of eight cities. It found that, on average, these cities could reduce emissions from the waste sector by nearly 84% by introducing zero-waste policies, with some, like São Paulo and Detroit, potentially reaching net negative emissions by 2030.

He called for a range of measures, including: prioritizing food waste prevention and banning single-use plastics; separate collection and treatment of organic waste; invest in recycling and composting capacity; and financial incentives for zero waste.

Teresa H. Sadler