Friday, May 6, 2011

Air Time: Report says recycling, composting help fight climate change

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

It’s already pretty clear that it’s good to recycle and compost waste materials when possible, instead of throwing them in the garbage or burning them.

For example, recycled materials are used in a variety of consumer goods and in other ways. Composting yard waste produces quality lawn-care material and other benefits. And keeping yard waste and recyclable items out of the landfills means we lessen the need for more landfill space.

From an air quality standpoint, burning yard waste produces smoke that harms the people who breathe it and the overall environment. That's why it is banned in most areas of Washington. (And burning garbage is illegal throughout the state.)

We encourage people to use alternatives to burning, including composting.

Now a new report says diverting recyclable and compostable materials from the waste stream can lead to significant reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

The West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum produced the report, called “Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Recycling and Composting.” The group is made up of city, county, state, and tribal governments. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency leads this partnership.

According to the report, recycling or composting many items commonly found in the waste streams in Washington, Oregon and California could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 million metric tons.

That’s like taking 6.3 million cars off the road for a year.

The authors also say their report shows that recycling and composting contribute significantly to the green economy.

“Recycling or composting just half of core recyclables and food scraps currently in the three-state waste streams would yield almost $1.6 billion in additional salaries and wages, $818 million in additional goods and services produced, and $309 million in additional sales across the West Coast,” the report says.

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