Industry & Resource Management Goal 1: Increase waste diversion
IR-1.1: Reduce waste
Because GHG emissions start when products are manufactured and then continue with shipping, storage, use and end-of-life management, the primary way to reduce these emissions is not to create waste in the first place. For example, waste reduction occurs when a consumer decides to borrow an item rather than making a purchase or decides that the item isn’t necessary.
In contrast to recycling, reuse means using an object or material again and again for the same purpose or different purpose without altering the form of the product. Donating and purchasing clothing from a thrift store or reusing a glass jar for storage are examples of reuse.
Reuse keeps items out of landfills by extending the useful life of the items and conserves the embodied energy and other resources that were used during production. Keeping products and materials in use avoids producing the GHG emissions associated with new material production and end-of-life management. The more an item is reused, the more GHG emissions reductions can be achieved.
In addition to environmental benefits, reuse has social benefits as well. Many unwanted but usable items are donated to charitable organizations that provide beneficial services to our region. Reuse also creates local business opportunities through resale, such as consignment shops, and through repair.
Opportunities include economic diversity, new business models, innovation, reuse/repair sector job creation and charitable giving.
IR-1.2: Increase recycling
Over 50% of what we send to a landfill for disposal can be recycled through curbside and other types of collection. Increasing the flow of recyclable material through the region’s recycling and materials recovery infrastructure can significantly reduce GHG emissions from landfill disposal and provide economic benefits. Recycling has been proven to spur more economic growth than other options for the management of waste.
Recycling offers the opportunity to decrease GHG emissions from the mining, manufacturing, forestry, transportation and electricity sectors while also reducing methane emissions from landfills. This is because recycling materials into new (“secondary”) products can displace production of “primary” products that can require significant inputs of energy and virgin materials. In addition, manufacturing products from recycled materials typically requires less energy than making products from virgin materials.
Changes in the global commodity markets means that the region will have to recycle more materials domestically. The purity and quality of collected recyclables strongly influences the domestic market demand and the types of new products that can be produced from the materials.
Provide equitable access to services, location of recycling facilities and drop-off centers.
IR-1.3: Divert organic waste from landfill disposal through composting
Even though landfill disposal of yard waste is prohibited in Missouri and in Johnson County, a significant amount of organic material is still sent to landfills. When this organic material decomposes in landfills, it generates methane in the anaerobic conditions. Composting is one method
to reduce methane emissions from organic waste. It is an aerobic process that reduces or prevents the release of methane during organic matter breakdown, unlike anaerobic decomposition in a landfill.
The material remaining after composting is a value-added product. Soil amendments made from compost can conserve water, reduce erosion and runoff-related damage, build healthy soil, and reduce the need for energy intensive fertilizers and pesticides.
Additionally, composted material indirectly increases carbon sequestration through increased biomass of plant root systems.
Local composting programs typically accept yard waste and food waste from restaurants, schools and businesses. These locally generated organics are composted within regional boundaries, making the GHG reduction benefits greater because it avoids emissions associated with the transportation of products and materials.
Home composting can also reduce organics sent to landfills. However, large-scale composting is necessary to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Cities that are leaders in promoting city-scale composting services include San Francisco and Seattle. These programs rely on local ordinances that either offer incentives or require restaurants and other large food waste sources to compost food waste instead of sending it to landfills. The state of Vermont recently banned food scraps from the trash.
IR-1.4: Reduce food waste from landfill disposal
Wasted food is a growing problem in our modern society and is a significant contributor to climate change. Food accounts for nearly 15% of the material we send to local landfills. This means that approximately 350,000 tons of food waste is sent to landfills annually from the region.
Of the amount thrown away, studies show that 70% was edible (intended for human consumption) before it was thrown away. The remaining 30% is considered inedible food or components that are not typically consumed (e.g., peels, rinds, bones).
Food waste produces more methane than any other organic material. Reduction of food waste and subsequent landfill disposal can significantly reduce GHG emissions. Food waste can be used for producing compost.
Wasted food means wasted dollars. Education to use food more wisely can preserve income.
IR-1.5: Green the supply chain using recycled and other environmentally preferable products and services
As major employers and service providers, city and county governments are also major consumers. The purchase, use and disposal of goods by government agencies are associated with significant GHG emissions. These emissions can occur at all stages of a product’s life cycle — from
resource extraction, farming, manufacturing, processing, transportation, sale, use and disposal.
Environmentally preferable purchasing policies can provide government personnel with information and technical assistance to help them identify, evaluate and purchase economical and effective environmentally preferable products and services. This strategy aims to leverage the purchasing
power of government agencies to create opportunities and markets for products made from recycled content and for products that are resource efficient and are more durable.
This strategy can also be extended to include contractors and consultants retained through local government contracts. It also encourages government agencies to require interdepartmental sharing of goods to reduce duplicate purchases.
This strategy can create additional opportunities for locally owned businesses to provide goods and services.
IR-1.6: Promote recycling education and advocacy programs
Getting residents to understand recycling is critical to the success of recycling programs. People need to know what they can and can’t recycle, where to recycle and how to recycle.
Education is also a tool to address problem areas and misunderstandings about particular aspects of recycling programs. Lack of clear education, combined with programs that have transitioned to automated collection trucks, have led to the presence of unwanted material, such as plastic bags, clothing and garden hoses at local materials recovery facilities.
Comprehensive education results in higher recycling participation and makes people better recyclers. It is critical to provide clear and consistent recycling messages. Education should also address the full spectrum of recyclers — from novice to experienced. Repetition is essential and people need to hear recycling messages about what to recycle and how to recycle on numerous occasions and through multiple platforms for it
to become second nature.
Education should extend beyond residents. Businesses can educate each other through networking and sharing challenges and opportunities. Decision makers can be included in educational efforts to advocate for policies that can increase diversion opportunities and ultimately reduce GHG emissions.
Assure education is equally available in various formats across diverse channels to all residents.