We have the potential, just by tackling landfill emissions produced from organic waste, to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by over 52 billion tonnes per year.
As we all know, one of the main focuses of the federal government right now is fighting climate change through the reduction of harmful emissions. This is the reason for carbon taxes, investments in clean alternative energy sources, and more. But what if there’s a hidden gem that can reduce emissions more than any of those strategies, and it’s a lot easier for consumers to accomplish than affording a Tesla or building a nuclear fission machine?
In the federal government’s own words, “methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential,” and “emissions from Canadian landfills account for 20% of national methane emissions”. Based on these facts alone, it becomes quite clear that reducing methane emissions is an issue that is at the forefront of the battle against climate change, and that reducing these emissions from landfills is the best place to start. In pursuit of that goal, the diversion of organic waste away from landfills and towards proper composting facilities is key.
Based on literature analysis, the emissions of methane from compost facilities is extremely low, averaging between about 0.02 and 1.8 kg CH4 per tonne of ww (wet waste), and this number trends even lower when effective management of the compost is practiced. Additionally, aerobic composting of food waste results in emissions between -148 and -64 kg net CO2 and its equivalent gases per 1000 kg of food waste compared to -240 to 1100 kg if the waste ends up in a landfill. Using anaerobic digestion, this number gets even more impressive, with -395 kg net CO2eq per functional unit being emitted. What this all points to is the fact that diverting organic waste to composting facilities is absolutely essential in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, a primary goal for the federal government of Canada. This means that promoting effective composting practices among businesses and consumers is more important than ever. Allowing certified compostable bag alternatives to replace plastic will help support compost as they are the perfect tool for collecting the organic waste from consumers and diverting it to compost facilities.
Another important emissions benefit of certified compostable bags that is often overlooked is those produced during transportation. While paper and reusable bags are physically thicker and bulkier than single-use plastics, resulting in a heavier gross weight of the product itself, requiring more ships, trains, and trucks to transport them, contributing to emissions. Certified compostable bags are equal in size and weight to plastic bags, requiring the same number of transport vessels and resulting in no increased emissions.
By having retailers switch from single-use plastic bags over to multi-use certified compostable bags, consumers are given the chance to utilize their grocery bags for a second time to collect organic waste. Providing this easy solution for organic waste collection will prevent misinformed but well-intentioned individuals from mistakenly using plastic to collect their organic waste, since plastic will no longer be offered come the implementation of the ban. They will also eliminate the issue of organic waste being messy or difficult to handle for the reluctant few that do not consider it worth the hassle. This could potentially reduce the amount of food and yard waste being wrongly sent to landfills by a significant degree. Making composting a common part of everyday life by providing compostable bags in retail establishments will instil the concept of composting as an essential practice for consumers, bringing the issue to the forefront of their minds and resulting in diversion of organic waste to the proper facilities. As stated above and after informed extrapolation, this could potentially reduce the greenhouse gas emissions being produced by landfills by up to 1495 kg net CO2eq per 1000 kg of food waste, a significant portion of which is currently a result of methane production. Considering that Canada currently produces about 35 million tonnes of food waste per year, this could mean a reduction of over 52 billion tonnes of net CO2eq emissions entering the atmosphere per year.
It’s clear the federal government’s goal of emission reduction will be best served by implementing policy that promotes the use of certified compostable bags as the replacement for single-use plastics.
Join us, and tell the government that you don’t want to waste your time or taxpayers’ money by creating a poorly planned ban that is doomed to fail. Add your name to the list of Canadians asking the government to make this ban one that will create positive and lasting change for both our environment and future generations of Canadians too! Sign up here.
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