Why is striving for zero waste so important in dealing with the climate emergency?
Climate change is an emergency. We must take urgent action in the next decade to prevent temperatures pushing beyond 1.5°C, which would be devastating for many natural and human systems. Zero Waste Leeds have decided that striving for zero waste as a city is an important starting point in dealing with the climate emergency.
Striving for zero waste is also not just about reducing the waste that is disposed or incinerated, but also about buying less, reusing more and recycling. Waste disposal and incineration has a relatively small contribution to the UK’s carbon footprint - 0.3 MtCO2e in 2018, compared to transport - 121.4 MtCO2e - and energy - 98.3 MtCO2e. However, the real opportunity is in better using the resources we already have. A recent report from the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIEMAP), a collaboration of four UK universities, suggests that improving the use and efficiency of resources in the construction, vehicles, food and drink, electronics and appliances, and clothing and textiles sectors in the UK could save nearly 200 MtCO2e by 2032 - equivalent to half of the UK’s annual CO2 emissions! Buying less, reusing and recycling are all ways we can all improve the use and efficiency of our resources.
Fast fashion, wasteful food habits and constant demand for the latest gadgets are all things many of us are familiar with. Striving for zero waste in areas like these feels like really tangible goals that we can all strive for as individuals and in our communities. We also have significant power to encourage change at higher levels, in supermarkets, businesses and at government levels, through changing our consumer habits, creating new norms and campaigning for change.
Zero Waste Leeds hopes to help build the movement, providing a platform to bring together people doing similar work across the city, and to help you in the best way we can. Our graduate intern – Kirsty – is also working 50% of her time with us at Zero Waste Leeds and 50% of her time at Leeds City Council in the climate emergency team. This will really help us ensure we are contributing to the overall city’s climate emergency goals, as well as having influence in the work being done within the council.