Waste Management and the Fight Against Climate Change
Ahead of COP26 Climate Change summit in November 2021, we think it’s important to frame waste management within the context of climate change. Whether you’re looking at the United Nations (UN), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), International Energy Agency (IEA), or Extinction Rebellion (XR), there is a strong global message that urgent decarbonisation is needed. Waste management and recycling have a unique role to play in transitioning to a circular economy and delivering net zero. Following on from our previous piece which provided a breakdown of the IPCC report, we now discuss the link between waste management and climate change and how a data-driven waste solution can help reduce your Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
Circularity and Decarbonisation
In the lead up to COP26, solutions to climate change have focused largely on switching to renewable energy which would address approximately 55% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This share is comprised of emissions from transportation, electricity and heat used in buildings. While the focus on the energy sector is pivotal to solving the climate crisis, in isolation it remains insufficient to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The balance of carbon emissions come from industry, agriculture and land use. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, climate change is the result of our ‘take, make, waste’ economy. Building an economy that eliminates waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use, and regenerates natural systems is a crucial part of curbing GHG emissions. Climate strategies therefore need to broaden their approach ensuring they also prioritise a transition to a circular economy. There is an opportunity to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions through your waste.
The Role of Waste Management in Reducing Emissions
Irresponsible waste management contributes directly to climate change as waste decomposing in landfill sites produces carbon-based particles and methane gases. The more waste disposed of in landfills sites the greater the associated emissions. With over 2 billion metric tons of solid waste generated each year and an anticipated growth of this figure by 70% by 2050, there has never been a greater need to reduce waste and divert it from landfill sites. The future of waste management needs to prioritise the waste hierarchy and intercept waste before it reaches final disposal.
Fighting Climate Change is possible through improved Waste Management. Solid waste generated through operations is classified under scope 3 (see Figure 1) emissions for GHGs. It is estimated that in total scope 3 emissions can account for over 70% of the carbon footprint for many businesses. Measuring and managing these emissions is therefore of the utmost importance to reduce a business’s overall impact on the climate.
Figure 1: GreenHouse Gas Protocol
We can help you reduce your Scope 3 emissions by prioritizing the waste hierarchy and ensuring that the most preferred option is selected. End-of-life treatment options will vary but generally, the higher the treatment option is on the waste hierarchy the greater the carbon savings. Recycling plays a unique role in reducing carbon emissions as recycled materials generally produce fewer carbon emissions than using virgin materials. Recycled materials contribute to the circular economy and divert materials from landfill sites hence avoiding carbon emissions.
Figure 2: Waste Hierarchy
For example, composting 1 ton of food waste, allows you to save 2.86 tons of CO2e emissions. This is because when food waste decomposes in a landfill site it produces methane, a GHG that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Similarly, depending on the waste grade and treatment option used there is an associated carbon saving attached to avoiding, recycling and recovering waste. This is why finding alternatives to landfills is pivotal to reducing your scope 3 emissions.
Don’t Waste Time: We have the Solution
At Don’t Waste our systems and technology are aligned to the waste hierarchy and support the circular economy. The unique data-driven PropTech solution we provide to clients allows them to track, manage and reduce their waste streams. Our advanced tracking system ensures that clients can easily trace the final destination, be it through recycling or recovery, ensuring transparency across the value chain. Our expertise with over 25 years of experience allow us to identify the best treatment options available and support your zero waste to landfill journey.
We are committed to optimising and improving the operational waste management of our clients by maximising the avoidance, recycling and recovery of waste. Our data analysis and advanced reporting gives detailed insights into recycling behaviour and provides bespoke recommendations for improvement areas. Our system allows clients to monitor and report on their carbon savings achieved through the diversion of waste from landfill sites. Tracking the amount of waste diverted through our centralised system helps clients quantify their carbon savings and take further steps to reduce emissions.
Setting ambitious climate targets is one thing, but do you have the tools to achieve them? Businesses need to go beyond target setting and take immediate action to reduce their emissions. Don’t Waste understands the great potential that lies in reducing GHG emissions through waste and we can help you through this process. By reducing your scope 3 emissions through improved waste management you can do your part and take immediate action on the climate crisis. There is no time to waste.
Don’t Waste provides industry leading business intelligence, site management, and waste management services to Property, Retail, Commercial, Industrial and Hospitality industries. Our customers include the world’s leading property management groups. To find out more about our innovative value-added systems and services in onsite waste operations, contact:
Melissa van Rensburg- Group Zero Waste Lead: (Email: