The world is facing an increasing waste problem, creating 2.2 billion tons of waste in 2021, and this amount is expected to double by 2050.
Of this amount, only 14% is recycled globally per year, according to the Economist article “Cleaning up the global mess.”
Waste is a significant contributor to GHG emissions. Post-consumer waste, landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and the incineration of waste containing plastics and synthetic textiles all emit methane and carbon dioxide.
IPCC Working Group III report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of climate change, reiterates that limiting warming to 1.5C will be beyond reach without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors.
The waste sector remains the most significant contributor to urban emissions after the energy sector, even in low-carbon cities (Vilella, n.d.).
Vilella (n.d.) says, “As the IPCC says, cities can reduce GHG emissions significantly, but this requires systemic transformation: circular economy, inclusion and equity, and innovative technologies are some of the key elements in conjunction with other strategies that can contribute towards low and net-zero urban development.”
As a response to the climate crisis, communities worldwide advocate for zero-waste, particularly in reducing waste to slash emissions.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines zero-waste as “The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health (How Communities, 2021).
New Zealand’s Zero Waste Network, comprised of various groups around the country, all working with their local community towards Zero Waste, aims for a zero-waste world “where resources are valued, and nothing is wasted.”
Their goal is to minimise and ultimately eliminate waste through reducing consumption, maximising recycling, and ensuring that products are made to be reused, repaired, recycled, or composted, alluding to a circular economy.
The Economist published a video featuring Taiwan, once known as a “garbage island,” but is now leading towards achieving zero waste.
Click on the source links below to know more about zero waste and circular economy:
Cleaning up the global mess. (2022, March 29). The Economist. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/films/2022/03/29/cleaning-up-the-global-mess
The evidence is clear: the time for action is now. WE can halve emissions by 2030. (2022, April 4). IPCC. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/2022/04/04/ipcc-ar6-wgiii-pressrelease/
Vilella, M. (n.d.). IPCC’s Mitigation Report: 5 Takeaways for Zero Waste Cities. GAIA. Retrieved from https://www.no-burn.org/ipcc-takeaways-zw/
How Communities Have Define Zero Waste. (2021, November 15). EPA. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/transforming-waste-tool/how-communities-have-defined-zero-waste#
Zero Waste Network. (2022). Zero Waste. Retrieved from https://zerowaste.co.nz/why-zero-waste/