Wednesday 10 Aug 2022

Impact of waste management on climate change

What kind of a planet will our future generations inherit from us? A warmer, unstable and resource stressed earth or a resourceful and climate stable one? These questions worry us all. Climate change is a reality and its signatures - floods, cyclones, droughts, heat waves and storms rise in sea level, rising temperatures-are widespread and happening in real time. But how can Goa, one of the smallest states in the country contribute to solve the issue of such a global scale?

Impact of waste management on climate change
In 2018, the world was reported tobe emitting around 37,000 milliontCO2eq greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions, of which India’s contributionwas around 7%. Globalaverage temperatures have increasedby 1.2oC in 2019, compared to pre-industrialtimes. This is the warmestdecade of the past 10000 years. Andnot surprisingly, the two warmestyears have been between the years2015-2019. India stands on ‘extreme’levels of being vulnerable to climatechange. Most vulnerable is our country’scoastline.Extreme weather events yearlythwart the state of Goa. The statecapital which is just 7.02 metersabove mean sea level is extremelyvulnerable to sea level rise inducedby climate change. But how can Goa,one of the smallest states in thecountry contribute to solve the issueof such a global scale? It seems thatstate is already contributing towardsit through waste management initiatives.And yes, waste has a link toglobal warming.Waste lying in landfills emits one ofthe most harmful gases responsiblefor global warming-methane. It is 28times more potent than CO2 in risingglobal temperatures and is increasingat 7.05 parts per billion/year in theatmosphere. Transportation of wasteto landfills requires fossil fuels whichare primary contributors to BlackCarbon- again a contributor to climatechange. Manufacturing processes ofthe items that we use and discard requiresfossil fuels and virgin resources.Unattended waste is burned whichreleases harmful gases that againcontributes to global warming. In2014, solid waste disposal alone contributedabout 15 million tCO2eq andis one of the 5 sectors contributing toemissions inventory of the country.The state through its Saligao plantin North Goa has been able makesmall cuts in contributions of wasteto national GHG inventory. The plantwhich started processing solid wastesince August 2016, had receivedapprox. 0.16 million Tonnes of wastetill November 2019. In this tenure itproduced about 5400 tonnes of RDFwhich went to cement plants as afuel replacing coal. The plant alsogenerated 7.5 million units of cleanelectricity using biogas generatedfrom biodegradable waste. Undera waste project which focuses onimplementing Nationally AppropriateMitigation Actions (NAMA) for climatechange, GIZ and TERI team estimatedthat in 4 years with RDF, material recoveryfacility (MRF), Biogas plant andavoidance of emission from landfillSaligao plant has saved about 43,000tCO2-eq emissions. It is also estimatedthat processing of waste between2016-2019 has saved land equivalentto approximately 3 football fields.The state capital’s waste managementinitiatives are also atestament to GHG mitigation fromwaste management. At first the cityestimated its current emissions fromwaste management which stands at2859 tCO2Eq as of 2018. With its nolandfill principle and decentralisedapproach to process waste using lowcarbon technologies such as biogascomposting, recycling, RDF, Panaji istaking little steps to mitigate its GHGemissions from waste.Facilitated by the NAMA project,the city is now a member of Climateand Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) wasteinitiative. This will help the city tocollaborate with international expertsand other cities globally and build itscapacities to implement low carbonsolutions for waste management.The state of Goa is playing a small,but significant role in solving a globalissue which impacts the state locally.However, it’s a long journey juststarted. A lot more is to be achievedby continuous citizen participation inimplementation of two Rs’ – reduceand reuse prior to recycling. Citizensas well as civic bodies in the state willhave to formulate strategies to reducethe per capita amount of waste generatedand thereafter efficiently recyclewaste at the closest proximity, toreduce its impact on the environment.The goal should be implementinga cradle to cradle approach, wherewaste is not a cause for global warmingbut a currency of circular economywhich leads to a low carbon andresource efficient earth in the future.Manuja is fellow, Environment andWaste Management, TERI; and Rathiis technical advisor-Climate Change,GIZ. The article has inputs from DrSuneel Pandey, Director, Environmentand Waste Management, TERI. Viewsexpressed are personal.
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