solid waste and greenhouse gases
reducing greenhouse gases
nyc's greenhouse gas emissions
us environmental protection agency
Solid Waste and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The disposal of solid waste produces greenhouse gas emissions in a number of ways.
First, the anaerobic decomposition of waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas that can be 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide if not captured for use in energy production.
Second, the incineration of waste produces small quantities of carbon dioxide as a by-product.
Third, the transportation of waste to disposal sites produces greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of the fuel used in the equipment.
Finally, the disposal of materials indicates that they are being replaced by new products; this production often requires the use of fossil fuels to obtain raw materials and manufacture the items.
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Reducing Greenhouse Gases
Through Waste Prevention and Recycling
Waste prevention and recycling — jointly referred to as waste reduction — help us better manage the solid waste we generate. They also are potent strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Together, waste prevention and recycling:
Reduce methane emissions from landfills. Waste prevention and recycling (including composting) divert organic wastes from landfills, thereby reducing the methane released when these materials decompose.
Reduce emissions from incinerators. Recycling and waste prevention allow some materials to be diverted from incinerators and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of waste.
Reduce emissions from energy consumption. Recycling saves energy. Manufacturing goods from recycled materials typically requires less energy than producing goods from virgin materials. Waste prevention is even more effective at saving energy. When people reuse things or when products are made with less material, less energy is needed to extract, transport, and process raw materials and to manufacture products. The payoff? When energy demand decreases, fewer fossil fuels are burned and less carbon dioxide is emitted to the atmosphere.
Increase storage of carbon in trees. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in wood, in a process called "carbon sequestration." Waste prevention and recycling of paper products allow more trees to remain standing in the forest, where they can continue to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
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NYC's Greenhouse Gas Emissions
NYC already has one of the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emissions levels among major global cities, one-third the U.S. average, due to our density and reliance on mass transit. You can help reduce NYC's emissions even further by preventing waste, reusing items instead of discarding them, and by fully participating in NYC's curbside recycling program.
By recycling all of your paper — including cardboard, junk mail, newspapers, magazines, softcover books, office paper, telephone directories, colored papers, and catalogs — you will make a big contribution to reducing your carbon footprint. For every ton of paper that New Yorkers recycle instead of throw in the trash, 4 metric tons of carbon equivalent are saved. That’s the same as taking one car off the road for 8 months.
Recycling all of your metal items — including cans, foil, and anything that is mostly metal like old frying pans, toasters, and wire hangers — is also a major way to keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. For every ton of metal that New Yorkers recycle instead of throw in the trash, 5 metric tons of carbon equivalent are saved. That’s the same as taking one car off the road for an entire year.
Plastics recycling also has impacts, so make sure to recycle all of your plastics and cartons. For every ton of plastics and cartons that goes into the recycling bin instead of the trash, 2 metric tons of carbon equivalent are saved. That’s the same as taking one car off the road for around 3½ months.
Glass recycling doesn’t directly impact greenhouse gas emissions because of the inert nature of glass, but recycling glass instead of disposing of it does save energy. Recycle all your plastics and cartons.
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