Respect for Recyclers: Protecting the Climate through Zero Waste

Reducing, reusing, and recycling municipal waste is one of the easiest and most effective means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides gainful employment to millions of people in the developing world, mostly in the informal sector. Yet rather than supporting these efforts, climate funds such as the Clean Development Mechanism are subsidizing incinerators and landfill gas systems, which compete directly with recycling and increase emissions, unemployment, and public costs.

The rise of municipal solid waste incineration in China. The speedy industrialization and urbanization of China over the past three decades have produced signigicant challenges to the health of ecological systems. The unsustainable management of municipal solid waste (MSW) is one of those urgent challenges.

While it claims to be experimental and not commercial, the company behind the Usina Verde incinerator has been promoting large scale waste-to-energy incinerators uisng this plant as a model, ecen though the plant is not able to produce enough energy to meet its own needs.

The state of Delhi is the largest producer of solid waste in India; nearly 8,000 metric tons of solid waste are produced every day. As Delhi continues to grow, its appetite for landfill sites remains insatiable. Over 14 landfill sites have been used up, and the three disposal sites currently in use have already far exceeded their capacity.

Zero Waste is a move away from this unsustainable linear industrial system into a circular system—a system where unnecessary extraction and consumption is minimized, where waste is reduced, and where products and materials are reused or recycled back into the
market.

In Zero Waste, the resources that we use can be safely and economically recycled, reused, and composted, or turned into biogas anaerobic digestion. Zero Waste also means avoiding the use of disposable products and redesigning products that are toxic-free and built to last. Zero Waste involves:
• Reducing consumption
• Reusing discards
• Product redesign
• Shift to alternative delivery systems
• Comprehensive recycling
• A ban on waste incineration
• Comprehensive composting or biodigestion of organic materials
• Citizen and worker participation
• Policies, regulations, incentives, and financing structures to support these systems