Thursday, June 05, 2008

Trash is a Big Climate Problem, New Study Finds

Legislators in Washington have another tool to confront the climate crisis, according to a new report released today on United Nations World Environment Day. Stop Trashing the Climate concludes that increased recycling and composting are easily-achievable and essential measures to help meet U.S. greenhouse gas reduction targets being debated this week in Congress. Along with waste prevention, expanded recycling and composting can have the same climate protection impact as closing 21% of the nation’s 417 coal-burning power plants says the report. Coal combustion is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Released today by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Eco-Cycle, the report links America’s trash to use of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, and calls for action to trigger change within a short period.

To view the website and report, visit:

Main findings from Stop Trashing the Climate include:

· A zero waste approach based on preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling, and composting is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies to protect the climate.

  • Significantly reducing the amount of materials landfilled and incinerated has climate benefits comparable to closing one-fifth of all U.S. coal-fired power plants.
  • The one-way flow of materials from extraction, processing, and consumption to disposal directly contributes to climate change. Waste disposal is linked to more than one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; new resources must be continually extracted to replace those buried or burned.
  • Landfills are a top source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and landfill gas capture systems are not an effective strategy for preventing methane emissions to the atmosphere. The global warming impact of methane emissions in the short term is 72 times greater than CO2 and is three times greater than reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than coal-fired power plants, and waste 3 to 5 times more energy than recycling conserves.

Among Stop Trashing the Climate’s key policy recommendations:

  • Set local and national zero waste targets, focusing on 20-year plans.
  • Eliminate subsidies to landfills and incinerators.
  • End the practice of waste incineration.
  • Stop sending biodegradable materials to landfills and incinerators.
  • Expand the national reuse, recycling, and composting infrastructure.
  • Regulate paper packaging and junk mail and pass policies to significantly increase paper recycling

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