Stop Trashing the Climate
1. A zero waste approach is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies we can use to protect the climate and the environment. Significantly decreasing waste disposed in landfills and incinerators will reduce greenhouse gases the equivalent to closing one-fifth of U.S. coal-fired power plants. This is comparable to leading climate protection proposals such as improving vehicle fuel efficiency. Indeed, implementing waste reduction and materials recovery strategies nationally are essential to put us on the path to stabilizing the climate by 2050.
2. Wasting directly impacts climate change because it is directly linked to global resource extraction, transportation, processing, and manufacturing. When we minimize waste, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in sectors that together represent 36.7% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
3. A zero waste approach is essential. Through the Urban Environmental Accords, 103 city mayors worldwide have committed to sending zero waste to landfills and incinerators by the year 2040 or earlier.
4. Existing waste incinerators should be retired, and no new incinerators or landfills should be constructed.
5. Landfills are the largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions in the U.S., and the impact of landfill emissions in the short term is grossly underestimated — methane is 72 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time frame.
6. The practice of landfilling and incinerating biodegradable materials such as food scraps, paper products, and yard trimmings should be phased out immediately. Composting these materials is critical to protecting our climate and restoring our soils.
7. Incinerators emit more CO2 per megawatt-hour than coal-fired, natural-gas-fired, or oil-fired power plants. Incinerating materials such as wood, paper, yard debris, and food discards is far from “climate neutral”; rather, incinerating these and other materials is detrimental to the climate.
8. Incinerators, landfill gas capture systems, and landfill “bioreactors” should not be subsidized under state and federal renewable energy and green power incentive programs or carbon trading schemes. In addition, subsidies to extractive industries such as mining, logging, and drilling should be eliminated.
9. New policies are needed to fund and expand climate change mitigation strategies such as waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, and extended producer responsibility. Policy incentives are also needed to create locallybased materials recovery jobs and industries.
10. Improved tools are needed for assessing the true climate implications of the wasting sector.