The greenhouse effect is necessary for life on Earth. However, humans’ actions are increasing this greenhouse effect, and the consequence is that the Earth is warming up.

Surrounding our planet, there is a layer of gases (mainly methane CH4 and carbon dioxide CO2) that works like the walls of a greenhouse: Sunlight shines on Earth, the gases allow ultraviolet solar radiation energy to pass through but block infrared or heat waves (when they reach the Earth, the ultraviolet rays rebound and transform into infrared rays).

The problem is that we have widened the layer of gases (the thickness of the wall glass), the greenhouse effect is increasing, less energy is escaping and the planet is heating up.

The greenhouse effect is necessary for there to be life on Earth

The six main greenhouse gases (GHGs) identified in the Kyoto Protocol that cause the greenhouse effect are:

  • Carbon dioxide CO2
  • Methane CH4
  • Nitrous oxide N2O
  • Water vapor
  • Ozone O3
  • Halocarbon gases HFC, PFC, SF6, NF3

The ensemble of these greenhouse gases (or GHG) is also known as “the carbon footprint,” and corresponds to the total of the CO2 equivalence of each gas.

The global emissions[1] of GHG (greenhouse gases) in 2010 stood at almost 49 Gt[2] of CO2eq., practically twice as much as in the year 1970, when there were 27,000 tons.

The total GHG emissions[3] in Catalonia, in 2012, exceeded 43 Mt[4] of CO2 eq. In Spain, it was more than 340 and, in Europe (EU-28), 4,544 Mt CO2 eq. Each Catalan emitted an average of almost 6 tons of CO2 eq. in the year 2012.

The emission of greenhouse gases has doubled since 1970

There sector that contributes the most to the  greenhouse effect is energy (energy processing), and it can easily be called “The Sector,” since it contributed over 75% of the total GHG in Catalonia[5] in 2012. It is followed by the agricultural sector with almost 10%; industry, with over 8%; and, in fourth place, emissions related to waste (treatment and management), with 6% in 2012, which in 2014 fell to[6] 3%, and represents almost 0.8 Mt CO2 eq. GHG emissions from waste are mainly methane CH4 (92%), and the majority (89%) are produced in landfills.[7] The waste that we generate contributes to the warming of the Earth, through the greenhouse effect.

The waste that we generate contributes to the warming of the Earth

Thanks to the correct management of some of our waste, it was possible to reduce these emissions, avoiding[8] almost 0.7 Mt CO2 eq. in 2014. However, in 2010, the emissions from waste treatment and management were almost double those emitted in 1990 (93% increase).

Below, you can see the specific amounts (in GHG) that we’re talking about when considering the benefits provided by recycling for each waste fraction:

** avoided GHG[9] *Equivalence[10]

For each kilogram of the different fractions, the table shows the equivalence in kilometers that a car can travel by producing the same emission of GHG. For example, recycling 1kg of paper would be equivalent to avoiding car emissions for 17 km (from Barcelona to El Prat Airport). What’s remarkable is that aluminum recycling is the type that prevents the most GHG gases.

In conclusion, separating waste into different fractions or waste bins for its subsequent recycling and composting is the best option –in terms of waste management and treatment –in order to reduce the greenhouse effect of the planet,[11] with the lowest net GHG flow.

Waste separation and recycling is the best option in order to reduce the global warming of the Earth

Want to know more?

 The book Stop garbage. The truth about recycling, Alex Pascual, February 2019

An inconvenient truth, Oscar-winning film by the Hollywood Academy, of the ex-US Al Gore (What a great president he would have been!) Full movie (ENG CAST)

►Movie trailer (ENG)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bu6SE5TYrCM

►Leonardo Di Caprio at the 2014 Climate Summit at the UN (ENG)

►Good explanation of global warming, National Geographic (ENG)

https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/101-videos/climate-101-causes-and-effects

i  Climate change (ENG):

http://www.un.org/climatechange

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/global-warming-overview/

[1]. Climate Change 2014, Mitigation of Climate Change, Summary for Policymakers and technical summary, INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON climate change (IPCC). UNEP. ONU

[2]. 1 Gt or Gigatonelada = 1.000.000.000 tnes = 1.000.000.000.000.000 kg = 1015 kg

[3]. “Fifth report on the Catatonia progress to Kyoto objectives,” OficinaCatalana del Cambio Climático

[4]. 1 Mt or Megatonelada = 1.000.000 tones = 1.000.000.000 Kg = 109 kg

[5]. “Fifth report on the Catatonia progress to Kyoto objectives,” OficinaCatalana del Cambio Climático

[6]. “Waste management and his impact on Climate Change,” Statistics 2014, Agencia de Residus de Catalunya.

[7]. “Fifth report on the Catatonia progress to Kyoto objectives,” OficinaCatalana del Cambio Climático

[8]. “Waste management and his impact on Climate Change,” Statistics 2014, Agencia de Residus de Catalunya.

[9]. “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States,” Facts and Figures for 2012, the United States Environmental Protection Agency

[10]. Factor determined on: Savings of CO2 emissions in the products of the xarxa purchase reciclat. Car type EURO 4

[11]. “Waste management options and climate change,” European Commission

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