Waste management practices are an important, although oft-neglected, contributor to climate change. Waste disposal drives climate change directly through the release of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from incinerators and methane (CH4) from landfills. Waste disposal also drives climate change indirectly by depriving the economy of reused, recycled and composted materials, thus requiring increased extraction of raw materials, an extremely energy-intensive process.
A climate-friendly alternative, known as Zero Waste, radically reduces greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the efficiency in managing materials. This reduces the need for extraction, processing, and transport of raw materials, while also avoiding emissions from disposal (incineration, landfilling, open dumping and open burning). However, rather than investing in Zero Waste, the waste industry continues to promote disposal technologies. It is currently engaged in greenwashing these technologies to take advantage of subsidies available to “climate-friendly” technologies – thus accelerating climate change and simultaneously depriving truly climate-friendly technologies of needed financing.
GAIA recommends that:
- Governments should adopt Zero Waste as an essential strategy to combat climate change.
- Mitigation funds which are to be used in the waste sector should support Zero Waste projects.
- Incinerators, landfills, and other “waste-to-energy” projects which undermine Zero Waste should be ineligible for mitigation funds, offset credits and other forms of climate-related financing and subsidies.
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