‘REduce, REuse, REcycle’, the 3 Rs, is the consensus mantra to reduce the effect of waste and waste management practices on Climate Change. How does Waste impact Climate Change?
“The climate benefits of waste practices result from avoided landfill emissions , reduced raw material extraction and manufacturing, recovered materials and energy replacing virgin materials and fossil-fuel energy sources, carbon bound in soil through compost application, and carbon storage due to recalcitrant materials in landfills. In particular, there is general global consensus that the climate benefits of waste avoidance and recycling far outweigh the benefits from any waste treatment technology, even where energy is recovered during the process. (UNEP)
As we know, Green House Gases (GHGs) are a major cause of Climate Change as they trap the heat radiating from the earth back to space, resulting in global warming. One such GHG is released from the breakdown of Organic waste in landfills – Methane. (GRID UNEP)
In 2016, Deonar Dumping Ground in the Indian metropolitan city of Mumbai caught fire recurrently. This is a 300 acre ground (largest in Asia) used since 1927 to dump at-least half of garbage (untreated) of Mumbai.(NDTV) . Among other reasons for this is emission of methane, a flammable GHG.
(Pic: Courtesy, NDTV)
If less waste is generated, less spontaneous emission of methane would be there and therefore less warming due to its ‘greenhouse effect’.
Another dimension of the same is lowered GHG emissions as reduced need of production & distribution of goods due to greater application of 3Rs, result in lesser need of energy from burning of fossil fuels. This point is well illustrated in the following diagram. (EPA)
Diagram: Life-cycle of a Product (EPA)
Further, even waste management practices like anaerobic decomposition result in GHG emissions. Traditional “waste” management represents 1 to 5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.(EPA)
Conclusion – At our level, greater application of 3Rs is a significant way to avoid waste and reduce emissions leading to Climate change.
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