Thursday, December 11, 2008

Talking Trash

Sorry this is a bit late, I had it written down but I forgot to post it online.
It is the last day of the conference and today I went to a really interesting side session. It was based on an idea of zero waste but not all of the speakers specifically spoke about waste. The problems with CCS, nuclear power and hydropower were discussed but… I’m not going to talk about those because I don’t want to be writing pages and pages.
The presentation that I will discuss was by a man who worked for He talked about how waste was not considered by the IPCC to be a huge part of carbon emissions. This is because the IPCC only considers methane releases from landfills to be the emissions from waste. In actuality, waste could be the cause of 38% of emissions. These high emissions are caused by the linear system of production that exists in many countries around the world and especially in the US. Products are not made to be recycled, reused or composted; right now they are made to be used and discarded. Throughout this whole system of mass production of products that will just be thrown out and the energy and resources used to create them lost to landfills or trash burning (which also releases harmful emissions and pollution) huge amounts of emissions are created. Instead, the speaker said, we should focus on composting, recycling and reusing. Composting recycles organic resources, creating fertilizer that can replace environmentally harmful inorganic fertilizers. Recycling reduces the need for new natural resources and the degradation from mining, pumping and other methods of extraction that accompany their creation. The last method we should use to reduce both waste and unnecessary production of goods is reuse. This saves all GHG’s from transport, processing and creation costs of goods. Right now, some goods cannot be recycled so, our society needs to move toward more recycling friendly uses of resources and using only resources that can easily be recycled. I thought this part of the side event was fascinating; this fault of a linear system of production is not often discussed in sustainability talks. It makes me wonder about the sick place we live in that chooses to throw away valuable resources and mine new ones instead of just using what already exists, what we have already acquired. We haven’t created a more circular system of production because it would have high upfront costs and would require new capital to be built. As a result, it probably won’t happen unless we either have huge government policy changes or large-scale small changes of lifestyle, cultural changes that happen over long periods of time.
That was a great side event…
-Doug Indrick

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