Recycle Waste: Why is Recycling Good For Carbon Reduction

Recycling and the link to landfill gas

Most of us do our bit to recycle.  But do you know why we should recycle?  Anything you don’t recycle ends up in a landfill. A landfill, also known as a dump, holds something called “Municipal Solid Waste” or MSW. What is MSW?

Landfills are a major source of methane and carbon dioxide emissions as waste matter decays below ground

The city landfill is a massive source of carbon emissions

Municipal solid waste (MSW) is nonhazardous solid waste, including garbage, construction and demolition debris, and other solid waste generated by households and businesses, that is collected and transported to MSW landfills, where it is disposed. MSW, also known as landfill gas, is a major source of carbon emissions through methane equivalent and carbon dioxide.

How much methane does MSW landfills emit?

In 2020, MSW landfills emitted approximately 132.5 million metric tons CO2 equivalent (MMTCO2e) of methane, which was equivalent to the GHG emissions from about 20.3 million passenger vehicles driven for one year or the CO2 emissions from nearly 11.9 million homes’ energy use for one year. Methane emissions from MSW landfills were the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States in 2020, accounting for approximately 14.5 percent of these emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas.

EPA estimates landfill generates 15% of methane emissions

Recycling reduces landfill footprint

Therefore recycling reduces carbon emissions because it reduces methane emissions from landfills. A ton of waste incinerated emits approximately 1 ton of carbon dioxide, therefore recycling reduces carbon emissions because it reduces the amount of waste incinerated. A ton of waste recycled emits approximately 1 ton of carbon dioxide, therefore recycling reduces carbon emissions because it reduces the amount of waste recycled.

Recycling reduces production footprint

Recycling materials have a carbon footprint that is about 75% lower than their virgin equivalent. This means that recycling can help to shrink your carbon footprint. In today’s video, we’re going to look at some of the materials you can recycle and why recycling is so effective when it comes to cutting carbon. Today we’re going to look at recycling plastic, why it’s effective, and what you should be looking to collect.

Recycling means reducing virgin material extraction and processing

The waste hierarchy is a good way to think about how to reduce waste. It tells us that we want to prevent, minimize, and reuse as much waste as possible. This way, the stuff that we have to recycle is as little as possible. In terms of climate, the main motivation to recycle is to reduce the emissions from virgin material extraction and processing. The embodied carbon of recycled materials is typically around seventy-five percent lower than its virgin equivalent. Another way to reduce virgin material extraction is to use materials that are sustainable – for example we introduced our readers to sustainable bamboo tissues because bamboo is much more sustainable to grow and harvest than trees.

The best items to recycle depend on consumption patterns

And this helps us to make low carbon products in the future. Many think that we should focus all our efforts on recycling aluminum and steel and rubber but in fact the majority of our waste comes from things like food waste, garden waste, paper and cardboard, and plastic. Depending where you live, there’s going to be really different systems for recycling but if you’ve got a good way to deal with paper, plastic, gloves, and your food waste, you’re well on the way. Catches tomorrow day 26 one will be looking at how paying people can help the environment.

How to get started in recycling

The best way to start recycling is to start with simple items like plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Once you have a system in place for recycling these items, you can start to add other items like paper and glass. Following, binning your waste will be the key to success. You need to place all of your recyclables in the designated bins so that they can be properly sorted and recycled. Finally, you need to make sure that you are using the correct bins for each type of recyclable. Using the wrong bin for your recyclables can result in them being sent to the landfill instead of being recycled.

Here are 5 tips to get started in recycling:

1. Use a recycling bin for your paper, plastic, and metal waste.

2. Rinse out your bottles and cans before recycling them.

3. Avoid using products with a lot of packaging.

4. Bring your own shopping bags to the store.

5. Compost your food waste.

The bottom line about recycling is that it is beneficial to both the environment and the economy.

1: Introducing the Shrink

2: Eat plants for a day
3: Shuffle your food
4: Start a vegetable garden
5: Build a compost heap
6: Make a seasonal meal 

7: Take a purposeless walk
8: Cycle somewhere new
9: Let someone else drive
10: Improve your fuel economy
11: Research your motor
12: Plan a flightless holiday

13: Turn off your gadgets
14: Change a light bulb
15: Seal an air leak 
16: Control your heating
17: Control your cooling
18: Research your intensity
19: Research solar power
20: Save some water

21: Declutter a room
22: Upcycle some junk
23: Choose a used product
24: Invest in good design
25: Recycle some waste

26: Pay a person
27: Buy a quality offset
28: Plant a tree that sucks
29: Plant flowers for bees 
30: Support broader change 

Lindsay Wilson
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I founded Shrink That Footprint in November 2012, after a long period of research. For many years I have calculated, studied and worked with carbon footprints, and Shrink That Footprint is that interest come to life.

I have an Economics degree from UCL, have previously worked as an energy efficiency analyst at BNEF and continue to work as a strategy consultant at Maneas.  I have consulted to numerous clients in energy and finance, as well as the World Economic Forum.

When I’m not crunching carbon footprints you’ll often find me helping my two year old son tend to the tomatoes, salad and peppers growing in our upcycled greenhouse.