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Waste Management Contributes to Climate Protection

Waste Management Contributes to Climate Protection
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2016 have been concretised by the European Commission: The new EU climate law increases the emission reduction target from 40% to at least 55% by 2030 to meet the expectations of the November World Climate Summit in Glasgow.

As an innovation leader, TOMRA aims to help achieve the goals and take waste management to another level. A new study commissioned by TOMRA and conducted by EUNOMIA demonstrates the potential for an optimized waste management system as regards climate change. Overall, a reduction of 2.76 billion tonnes of CO2/year is possible. 

This reduction can be achieved using Holistic Resource Systems – the optimized combination of key waste management practices for the collection, sorting, and recycling to facilitate the transition toward a circular economy, which is preventing resource depletion, reducing littering, and contributing to a carbon-neutral world. 

Holistic resource systems are an ideal combination of political framework regulations, such as extended producer responsibility, deposit return schemes, and technical processes for waste handling. London-based consultancy for sustainability Eunomia has examined various models to identify the most efficient, cost-effective scenario for a holistic system.

The outcome is clear: 

  • Deposit return systems for PET bottles and metal beverage containers, which deliver a return rate of over 90%, should play a central role in such a system. 
  • As regards remaining household waste, only biowaste, paper, textiles, and electrical and electronic equipment should be collected separately. 
  • The rest should remain in a mixed waste stream which can be most efficiently separated into reusable materials for further recycling. 

This will enable regionally customized holistic models to cut global CO2 emissions by up to 5% – the equivalent of grounding all commercial flights globally and taking 65% of cars off the road. 

“Now is the time for real action to ensure societies stop wasting resources with all the related negative consequences. In many places, the pandemic helped to meet Paris Climate Agreement goals,” underlines Volker Rehrmann, Executive Vice President and Head of TOMRA Recycling/Mining & Circular Economy Division. “But even maintaining this level will require determined and consistent implementation, including holistic systems, to close the loops.” 

The three elements of holistic waste management are: 

  • Deposit return schemes (DRS) for PET and metal beverage containers deliver a return rate of more than 90%. They maximize captures of high-quality, high carbon-intensity material while reducing litter.
  • Separate collections of biowaste, paper, textiles, and electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) enable these materials to be recycled for the greatest carbon benefit. Although separate collections are an intrinsic part of holistic resources, the capture rates in even best practices are not good enough. Further sorting of the residual waste fraction will always be necessary. 
  • Mixed waste sorting (MWS) generates additional collection and recycling rates above and beyond what the other elements can deliver. The incineration or landfilling of plastics and other high carbon materials generates unnecessary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. MWS reduces those emissions and returns more materials to the system for incorporation into new products. MWS needs to be considered an investment priority now, as it is a required backstop to ensure waste management systems capture as many resources as possible for recycling.

To further discuss these concepts and the recently released white paper TOMRA will host a live webcast “Holistic Resource Systems” with Dr. Volker Rehrmann, EVP, TOMRA, and guest Joe Papineschi, Chairperson, Eunomia on July 7, 2021, 10:30 – 11:30 CET:

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TOMRA Recycling’s pioneering industry expertise continues to result in state-of-the-art machines and exceptional service within the waste and metal recycling industries. Our goal: support our customers to optimize their sustainability and operational value. Our method:...