Climate change and solid waste
Human activities – from cutting down forests to burning fossil fuels - are causing unprecedented rises in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. These emissions are resulting in increasingly severe changes to the climate system. Some of these emissions can be traced directly to solid waste through:
The products and services that we purchase, use and throw away have a significant impact on our climate. Greenhouse gas emissions result from significant energy use required at all stages of a product’s life – from resource extraction and farming, manufacturing and processing, transportation and use, and finally to disposal. There are also different impacts on climate change depending on how our waste is managed. Fewer harmful greenhouse gas emissions are produced when we prevent waste in the first place by consuming less, reusing what we have and recycling more, and capturing landfill gas to produce energy.
Every day we are faced with many consumption decisions. Each decision has a broader impact on the climate. By understanding the connection between materials, waste and climate change, we can make smarter consumption decisions that will help reduce climate impacts.
Updated: Nov. 3, 2015