In 2018, municipal solid waste (MSW) or consumer waste totaled 146 million tons of trash. Once thrown in a landfill, trash goes through aerobic decomposition. After the first year of being in a landfill, anaerobic conditions are established and bacteria begin to release methane as they decompose. Waste can release a significant amount of toxins and can be extremely dangerous to the surrounding environment by polluting the air, soil and waterways.
Gardens, zoos and museums have an opportunity to reduce their personal, packaging and product waste significantly by reducing the amount of single-use items purchased, composting organic materials and recycling products as much as possible.
Click below to read more about each goal and explore further resources. If you need more support, please email the Climate Toolkit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling (EPA)
- Wastes (EPA)
- Landfill Gas (EPA)
- Single-Use Plastics 101 (Natural Resources Defense Council)
Listed below are the Waste goals of the Climate Toolkit:
Install reusable water bottle filling stations to reduce the amount of plastic being produced and used. This is also a less expensive option that purchasing bottled water.
Greenhouse gas emissions are produced throughout the entire lifecycle of plastics, starting from the time oil and gas are drilled to produce plastics all the way to the moment the plastic enters a landfill. Plastics do not ever break down. They rather break into microplastics, which pollute waterways and the surrounding environment.
* We recognize that single-use plastic waste is sometimes a necessary byproduct of research; cases like these may be excluded from this goal.*
According to the World Economic Forum, about 4 – 8% of annual global oil consumption is associated with plastics. Greenhouse gas emissions are produced at every aspect of the lifecycle of plastics. First, oil and gas are drilled to produce plastics and ethane plants produce ethane (a component of natural gas) that is used to produce the building blocks of plastic. Once plastic arrives at a landfill, it never decomposes, but instead breaks down into microplastics, which are toxic to the surrounding environment and to our bodies.
Single-use plastics also leak toxic pollutants into waterways and soil and pollute oceans, landfills and green spaces since they cannot easily decompose or be reused. Most single-use plastics break and become microplastics.
By using materials that can be reused or composted, you can eliminate plastic waste and pollution and demonstrate the importance of waste reduction to your guests. Choosing reusable or compostable eating utensils and dinnerware promotes, encourages and educates visitors to use more sustainable eating methods and reduce their own waste.
- How Plastics Contribute to Climate Change (Yale Climate Connections)
- Life Cycle Assessment (The American Institute for Conservation and the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation)
- Can Museums Reduce Their Use of Single-Use Plastic? (Museum Next)
In the United States, more than one-third of available food is wasted and contributes to up to 28% of the trash found in landfills. Composting reduces food waste, reduces emissions and provides a clean alternative to chemical fertilizers, all while encouraging sustainable practices for guests. Rather than producing methane like plastics do, composting converts organic material into stable soil while absorbing water, carbon and nutrients. Composting sequesters carbon while producing nutrient rich soil.
- Waste Not: Responsibly Disposing of All Food Waste and Nearly All Restaurant Products (Climate Toolkit)
- Food Waste Composting: Institutional and Industrial Application (University of Georgia)
- Composting (Project Drawdown)
Materials that are not recycled or reused can emit methane, carbon and other toxins into the soil, air and waterways. Recycling can keep those emissions out of the environment and reduce the amount of carbon emissions required to produce metals, glass and plastic. Be sure to use materials that can be recycled or reused wherever possible.