Waste & Climate Change

By Laura McFarlan

SO FAR

Over the past 5 years, Waterloo Region has been implementing a plan committed to reducing our community greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 6% below the 2010 levels by 2020. Our recently published progress report marks that half way point. We know the target can be reached, so far we’ve decreased GHG emissions by 5.2% since 2010. This occurred by focusing on five key areas: transportation, workplace, home, agriculture, and waste.

All of us have an important role to play in reaching this goal!

THE IMPACT OF WASTE

As of 2015, transportation was responsible for the largest percentage of GHG emissions in the Waterloo Region. Whereas waste makes up a single percent. Though waste appears to have a smaller GHG emissions percentage the type of emissions produced by waste presents the real difficulty. Methane is a gas produced from decomposing organic materials when placed in an environment without oxygen such as a landfill. Methane has over 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (Co2).  When you put things that should go in the green bin or home composter in the garbage they go to the landfill and create methane.

Waste emissions increased by 11% over the past 5 years largely due to population growth. The implementation of green bins has helped divert unnecessary waste from landfills, leading to an increase in waste diversion rates. Still Waterloo Region estimates 50 000 tonnes worth of green bin material are placed in garbage bags going to landfill.

My house was a late adopter of the green bin program. We struggled with committing to properly collect organics and had a difficult time dealing with some of the unwanted pests that come with green bin miss-management. While it was difficult at times, we knew that playing our part in decreasing GHG emissions was important for long term sustainability.

WHAT WE CAN DO

Worried that you might be contributing to unwanted and easily avoided greenhouse gas emissions? Check out some of the simple steps you can take at home.

  1. Use the blue and green bins. Put organic waste and recyclables on the curb every week.
  1. Expand your Rs. We all know reduce, reuse, recycle but maybe consider using “refuse” and “rot”? Avoid products that produce un-necessary garbage if you can and consider composting your organic materials!
  2. Set up a backyard composter! Use your organic to make your garden happy and healthy.Not sure what should go in the composters or green bins? Print out this list to make it easy!
  1. Zero Waste Challenge! Participate in this challenge from REEP Green Solutions and try to produce zero waste over the month of October! Check out Zero Waste 101 to see if this challenge is for you!
  2. Build a Neighbourhood Green Bin Culture. Encourage your neighbours to give green bins a try, it’s easier than they might think.
  3. Live in a mutli-residential building that seems to have a hard time composting? Reep Green Solutions is exploring how to help you. Let them know if you’re interested.

There are many resources that can help everyone in Waterloo Region continue decreasing our collective greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. It is up to us to act and make simple changes in our lives.

Want more information on the ClimateActionWR plan to see how the Region of Waterloo has improved over the past 5 years? Check out our progress report that shares innovative changes made across our region.