Report highlights composting and recycling to reduce emissions
A report by the Global Alliance for Alternatives to Incinerators targeted the diversion of organic materials, increased recycling and reduced plastic use as key to keeping global warming below a critical threshold.
The report explored several zero-waste solutions to model how to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, with a focus on the waste sector.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, said in a webinar that “what reports like this do is lend credibility to the work that we do politically.”
“We need engaging and creative ways to get our point across to all kinds of decision makers, many of whom may not be moved by personal stories but want to see the data,” Tlaib added.
About 150 people attended the October 4 webinar on the Zero Waste to Zero Emissions report, which included four panelists: Tlaib; Judith Enck, founder of Beyond Plastics; Abraham Aiash, Democrat in the Michigan House of Representatives; and Victor Argentino, zero waste consultant at the Polis Institute in Sao Paulo.
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Neil Tangri, founding member of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and its science and policy director, said during the webinar that the report is intended to bring together different threads into a useful resource for policy makers and others.
The report used eight cities as case studies, including Sao Paulo, Brazil; Lvov, Ukraine; Bandung, Indonesia; and Detroit. It has primarily focused on reducing emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases by diverting more organic matter from landfills and increasing composting. He also highlighted the need to recycle more and reduce the use of plastic.
“Upstream recycling and source reduction are also key strategies,” Tangri said. “These reduce emissions from other sectors outside the waste sector.”
Tangri noted that zero waste strategies can reduce global emissions from the waste sector by an average of 84% by 2030, and that around 20% of global methane emissions come from the waste sector. Much of this comes from organics in landfills, and diverting more of these organics is the “fastest way to curb global warming.”
Source-separated collection and treatment of organics, even if done with moderate success, can reduce methane emissions from landfills by 62%, he said.
According to the report, increased recycling would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions in the waste sector by 35% in Detroit, 30% in Sao Paulo and 21% in Lviv by 2030.
Combined, the waste sector emission reductions ranged from 50% to 105% from a business-as-usual scenario for the eight cities, and “these significant reductions were achieved with relatively modest system changes,” notes the report.
The report and panelists made recommendations to achieve the reductions estimated in the document.
Enck said strong Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) bills are needed. Even though four state-level laws have recently been passed, in Maine, Oregon, Colorado and California, “I’ve read them all and they’re pretty weak,” she said.
“The plastics industry has hijacked EPR proposals to make sure they are very low,” she said, adding that “if you get low EPR bills or you get another legislation on subsidies or the deregulation of chemical recycling, it will be difficult to get zero waste solutions off the ground.
Aiash said solutions such as EPR are important because it is essential not to put the burden on the consumer.
“Poor communities don’t have the luxury of deciding whether they’ll buy something with compostable or recyclable packaging,” he said.
Michigan also has a low recycling rate, about 15%, and one of the lowest tipping fees in the country at 36 cents per ton. Aiash pointed out that the national average for tipping fees is $5.30 per ton, and this disparity leads to a situation where “neighboring states are trucking garbage and dumping it in Michigan because it’s so good.” market “.
Aiash said a powerful waste industry lobby had “worked very, very hard to keep tipping fees as low as possible” despite bills intended to raise them.
The report called for a ban on single-use plastic, as “plastic bans and universal collection systems are essential to flood prevention, as poorly managed waste – especially plastic bags – leads to systems clogged drains”.
In addition, investments in waste management systems, recycling and composting capacity are needed, as are financial incentives through subsidies for recycling and composting, according to the report.
Any plastic produced must be designed to be reused and recyclable, the report says, and recycling must be mechanical.
“There is little sense in investing heavily in heavy industrial facilities (such as chemical recycling and incineration) to handle the waste streams that need to be disposed of,” the report notes. “These sunk costs will create incentives to continue producing problematic plastic.”
Tangri said ‘thinking of waste as an energy source isn’t a very good way to go’, and Enck warned viewers not to ‘listen to the plastic industry’s fake solutions’ to recycling. chemical.
“It’s burning plastic, but they call it chemical recycling,” she said.
There are more positives to a zero-waste approach, the report also notes, including environmental benefits such as reduced air pollution and toxic residues, economic benefits such as green jobs and benefits social issues such as improved energy access and security, reduced poverty and inequality, increased food and water security and improved public health.
Argentino said integrating informal waste pickers is necessary because “if you don’t integrate vulnerable people and vulnerable groups into the system, it won’t work.”
He added that leaders are currently investing in the wrong solutions, including landfilling.
“We need political pressure to shift those incentives to good solutions,” he said.