With temperatures set to soar into the 30s this week, it's hard to argue against the real and dramatic impact global warming is having on our climate in the UK. But how many people actually know the basics of why their waste results in the planet heating up?
Global Warming Basics
Maybe it's time to go back to basics to remind ourselves why generating more and more waste, and discarding it without any consideration, is detrimental to our planet, the environment, and our lives.
So, here goes....
Life exists on earth because we have the right temperature for it to do so. Light from the sun finds its way through our atmosphere and warms the surface of Earth at the right temperature for life to thrive. In a perfect world this light and heat then escapes back into the atmosphere to keep the temperature consistent.
When greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are present in excess levels, they act like a blanket, trapping this light and heat close to the Earth's surface. This causes the planet to reach temperatures that have a number of negative consequences. These include; melting ice-caps, rising sea levels, weather changes affecting crops, threat to human and animal life and destroyed eco-systems.
Up until around 150 years ago there were no greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, so why are they at such dangerous levels now?
Where are they from?
There are 3 main types of greenhouse gas:
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2): which enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), solid waste, trees and wood products, and as a result of other chemical reactions such as making cement. Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle. It makes up 82 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions.
- Methane (CH4): Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also come from livestock and other agricultural practices and by the decay of organic waste in landfills. It is more active in trapping heat and makes up 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions.
- Nitrous Oxide (N2O): Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste. It makes up 5 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions.
A huge percentage of greenhouse gas comes from the combustion engines that power our cars, however other factors also play a huge part. Reduction, Re-use and Recycling the waste we produce instead of discarding it to landfill has major benefits.
Recycle and Reduce to combat global warming
Reduced consumption of goods, re-use and recycling allows the waste we produce and the items we no longer want or need to enter the circular economy. The process involved will allow the materials and elements that make up the waste to be used again. This dramatically reduces the need to use up the world's resources in the form of raw materials and fossil fuels.
Secondly, diverting waste from landfill (or indeed reducing the volume of waste we send to it) reduces the quantity of harmful methane gas that is leaked into the environment. Rotting waste in landfill releases methane which is 23 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide and therefore contributes the most to climate change.
If we all work hard at work and at home to reduce the amount of waste we produce, and have schemes in place like that offered by Cawleys to identify and segregate waste for recycling, we can all work together to make a real difference to global warming.