Eco-Cycle: Waste trashing climate
The Boulder, Colorado Daily Camera
By Laura Snider
Friday, June 6, 2008
Conversations about stopping climate change tend to focus on reducing fossil fuels -- on the electricity grid and in the fuel tank. But Eco-Cycle's executive director, Eric Lombardi, says don't forget the trash.
"Smokestacks and tailpipes are the two big gorillas in the room," he said. "But waste is the third-biggest contributor."
And even if the world's waste is a slightly smaller problem, perhaps only chimpanzee-in-the-room status, it may well be the easiest and cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gases in the short term, according to a report released Thursday co-authored by Lombardi.
"Aiming for zero waste is one of the fastest, cheapest, most effective strategies for combating climate change," Brenda Platt, of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said at a news conference. "Trash we set out on the curb is directly linked to greenhouse gas emissions."
The report, "Stop Trashing the Climate," claims that if Americans recycle or compost 90 percent of our waste, it would have the equivalent effect of shutting down 21 percent of the coal-fired power plants operating in the United States today.
Recycling's effects on global warming are less direct than cars and power plants. Less obvious than Earth-heating carbon dioxide puffing di-rectly out of tailpipes or smokestacks, recycling fights climate change more subtly.
First, recycling more trash means fewer landfills, which are the No. 1 human-produced source of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Additionally, recycling more means using fewer raw materials to produce new things, which in turn means less energy -- and therefore less carbon -- is used.
And since the recycling craze hit the country long before the carbon-neutral craze, the hybrid-car craze and the renewable-energy craze, the fundamentals of the infrastructure to go zero waste are already built.
"It's the fastest, cheapest way to get big reductions," Lombardi said. "Already we have the basics in place, and now we just have to get serious."