No time to waste: waste management and methane
Humans produce more garbage than ever before-our excessive consumption model has brought an unimaginable burden to our planet. Although garbage often makes people feel invisible and unpleasant, it has not disappeared. As mentioned in the first article of this blog series, most of our waste in Europe ends up in landfills or incinerated. In fact, in 2016, 46.6% of the garbage in the 28 EU countries was landfilled and piled up in a pile to remind us of our dependence on buying things.
Landfills pose an obvious environmental threat because they require a large area of land to exist; they cause damage to the ecosystem, cause obvious eye pain to our natural environment, and cause toxic pollution of the soil. However, their impact on the climate is often not discussed.
One of the ongoing challenges facing landfills is how to dispose of toxic waste. Especially where chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde are involved-if they leak into the environment, they can create dangerous and toxic wasteland. If poorly managed, the landfill may leak chemicals into the water system, contaminate the soil, and have proven to have health effects on people living within 5 miles of the site. According to reports, landfills can cause smog and local air pollution-further exacerbating health problems such as asthma. Unfortunately, these locations are often located in disadvantaged communities, further exacerbating poverty and health problems, and creating unsafe living spaces.
In addition to chemical pollution from landfills, there is also methane. A known greenhouse gas that is 86 times stronger than carbon dioxide in a 20-year cycle. Unlike carbon dioxide, methane only exists in the atmosphere for a short time (approximately 12 years), and it causes serious damage to the environment in a cycle of 100 to 300 years. For this reason, the 100-year cycle has always been a common measurement of all greenhouse gases, which explains why methane is often underestimated and mistaken for less destructive than carbon dioxide. However, from the perspective of a 20-year cycle, it is clear that methane poses the same climate threat as carbon dioxide.
Landfills involve breaking down various forms of waste-mainly organic waste-which releases methane. In 2010, landfills worldwide emitted about 800 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent methane—about 11% of all methane produced by humans each year.
No time to waste
The zero-waste approach to waste management shows that our current linear economy is to blame for our disposable waste habits. We need to manage resources in a way that protects the value of resources and energy, realizes a circular economy, and keeps our planet in a livable atmosphere.
To achieve this goal, we need an ambitious waste prevention policy that prioritizes reuse, garbage and rethinking practices, and then increases the separate collection and quality recycling of waste at the source. We first need to reduce food waste and invest in composting as a means of managing organic waste, instead of releasing methane, but through fertile soil, we need to solve e-waste through innovative reuse solutions and durable business models Problems, and we need to rethink our over-consumption culture to ensure that our planet has a chance to fight.
During this period, we need to pre-treat organic waste before landfilling. This will reduce the quality of organic waste in landfills, thereby reducing the methane released. In order to ensure this, the separate collection of biological waste must be prioritized to reduce the amount of waste to be disposed of in the first place. Cities such as Milan have already demonstrated the positive impact of this work.
By reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators, the zero-waste strategy is implemented faster than traditional waste management, has lower operating costs and is safer for the environment. If we want to stop uncontrolled climate change, we need to address our waste addiction problem at the source. Learn more about our relationship with disposable products and climate change in our next blog.
Read more about our work on waste here.
Explore this topic in depth with our policy brief on the case of an integrated waste prevention framework.
Next → Plastic Pollution and Climate Crisis
About the latest post
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