Addressing Climate Change Through Circularity and Improved Solid Waste Management
Clean Cities, Blue Ocean
Worldwide, increasing production, use and disposal of plastic—combined with inadequate management of plastic waste—is driving ocean plastic pollution and exacerbating the climate crisis.
Plastic (and other mismanaged waste) contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions throughout its life cycle – In recent decades, global plastic use has rapidly increased. Because of rising urban populations in low- and middle-income countries and increasing consumer demand, plastic packaging use alone is expected to quadruple by 2050, and emissions from plastic could account for 10-13 percent of the entire remaining carbon budget set to avoid overshooting the 1.5 C target. Over 90 percent of emissions come from production, transportation, refining, and conversion of fossil fuels into plastic products. The remaining emissions come from end-of-life processes, primarily incineration, open burning, and leakage into the environment. Up to 90 percent of solid waste in low-income countries is openly burned or dumped—and the majority of dumps and landfills lack the proper environmental controls that leave discarded materials, particularly organics, to decompose and emit methane into the environment. Open burning not only emits methane, but also releases black carbon and particulate matter pollution. The waste sector accounts for 18 percent of global methane emissions, one of the most powerful GHGs with 25-34 times the Global Warming Potential of CO2.