How waste solutions can help reduce carbon emissions

New report by the organization Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives found that waste solutions could slash carbon emissions by the equivalent of the annual emissions of 300 million cars.

Governments around the world have pledged to reduce emissions of methane (CH4) — which absorbs 80 times more solar radiation over short periods than carbon dioxide — in their battle to curb global warming. Human-induced sources of the powerful greenhouse gas are largely from livestock and manure handling, which accounts for some 30% of anthropogenic methane emissions, followed by the oil and gas sector (19%) and landfills (17%), according to U.N. climate experts.

A new report by the organization Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) found that simple tweaks in the waste solutions sector, particularly in urban areas, could slash carbon emissions by the equivalent of the annual emissions of 300 million cars. The authors looked at “zero waste” strategies, like separating organic materials, composting, recycling nonorganic material and overall reductions in discarded products.

GAIA aims to power a transition away from our current linear and extractive economy and towards a circular system that supports people’s right to a safe and healthy environment. This entails fighting pollution and building regenerative solutions in cities through local campaigns, shifts in policy and finance, research and communication initiatives, and movement building. GAIA works on four primary points of intervention: incineration, zero waste, plastic, and climate.

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Other interventions can eliminate greenhouse gas emissions outside of landfills. “Source reduction,” for example, can cut climate pollution by preventing excessive amounts of stuff from being made in the first place. This could be accomplished through bans on single-use plastics, which emit greenhouse gases at every stage of their life cycle. Better reuse and recycling infrastructure can also prevent emissions by obviating the need to mine for new materials — a recycled aluminum can, for instance, takes some 95 percent less energy to create than one made of virgin aluminum.

The researchers modeled potential emissions reductions from eight cities around the world and found that, on average, they could cut waste solutions sector emissions by almost 84%. Methane is responsible for roughly 30% of the global rise in temperatures to date. The powerful greenhouse gas lingers in the atmosphere only a fraction as long as CO2, but is far more efficient at trapping heat. Levels of the gas are their highest in at least 800,000 years.

Zero waste systems are versatile strategies that aim to continually reduce waste through source reduction, separate collection, composting, and recycling. Over 550 municipalities around the world are already implementing zero waste, in a wide range of economic, social, climatic, and legal contexts. Furthemore, these systems are cost-effective to implement and produce fast results.

GAIA report

The report was organized around the three overarching positive impacts of incorporating zero waste solutions into current waste management methods: climate mitigation, climate adaptation and additional societal benefits.

Also read Why waste-to-energy is an emerging investment for industries

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Waste can represent an important 24/7 base power, especially if used in a small or medium sized plant. To find the optimal solutions Universal Kraft works with different technical partners, all from patented pyrolysis EPGS, with compact, scalable, efficient and flexible solutions, converting a variety of different wastes into energy.

Our main interest is to bring waste into a circular context in smaller communities, in combination with sustainable actions. As solid waste and organic compounds in industrial wastewater and residue water are some of the feedstock that offer untapped energy potential.

Waste is not just a problem, waste can be a solution where non-recyclable waste is turned into a valuable resource for the whole society.

Discover our Waste Solutions projects here.

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