Waste is unavoidable in today's society, no matter who you are or where you live, we all produce some form of waste. However, it is the way in which we dispose of this waste that is having major implications on our planet, particularly on it’s contribution to climate change.
Climate change is the long-term shift in average weather patterns across the world. One of the leading causes of this is the rise in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. This causes global temperatures to rise, resulting in long-term changes to the climate. These drastic changes from carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases mainly come from humans and the rapid rise in developing technologies since the industrial revolution.
When waste ends up in a landfill and decays, it releases methane particles into the air, which is one of the most damaging greenhouse gases driving climate change. The short-term effects of methane are worse than carbon dioxide. Methane is the main component of greenhouse gases and is second only to carbon dioxide (CO2) in terms of its overall contribution to human-driven climate change. Although methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it can be more harmful to the changing climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat.
Greenhouse Gases effectively trap heat radiating from Earth. Certain gases in the atmosphere resemble glass in a greenhouse, allowing sunlight to pass into the ‘greenhouse,’ but blocking Earth’s heat from escaping into space. (NASA)
We have already started to see the effects of greenhouse gases during the Australian wildfires, which have destroyed over 2,000 homes, consumed 27.7 million acres of land and left the koala population near-extinct in certain states. British academics concluded that global warming is one of the leading causes of the increase in hot, dry weather around the world which leads to the increase of wildfires.
Another major waste contributor is, of course, plastic. The creation of plastic creates billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases with 4% of the world’s annual petroleum production being diverted to making plastic, and another 4% gets burned in the refining process. (WWF)
One of the most troubling issues with plastic is the small per cent of plastic that is correctly disposed of, and the amount of single-use plastic we use that then ends up in a landfill. Globally, in 2019, researchers estimate that the production and incineration of plastic will pump more than 850 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. By 2050, those emissions could rise to 2.8 billion tonnes if we do not take action. (WWF)
Not only is plastic affecting our air, but it is also causing significant issues in our oceans. At least 8 million tonnes of discarded plastic enters our oceans each year, and plastic pollution at sea is on course to double by 2030. Plastic has even been found in the deepest place on Earth – in the Mariana Trench, nearly 11 kilometres below sea level. (WWF)
RiverRidge operates three of the most advanced waste treatment facilities across Northern Ireland. RiverRidges treatment philosophy is based on the Waste Treatment Hierarchy and is founded on avoiding the use of landfill as a disposal option.
The treatment of any waste received into our facilities firstly involves the extraction of reusable or recyclable materials. Then any residual waste remaining after this process is converted into what is known as a refuse-derived fuel. These fuels are sent to various energy recovery facilities who use them to substitute the use of fossil fuels
Recyclable materials are extracted throughout the RiverRidge Treatment process via the following methods:
Any waste materials which cannot be reused or recycled are converted into Refuse Derived Fuels (RDF). A large part of RiverRidge’s competitive advantage is built around its capacity to engineer highly refined RDF grades as well as being a key shareholder in Northern Ireland’s only large scale Waste to Energy Facility – FCG. RDF grades are determined by the level of moisture and contamination remaining in the fuels at the end of the process.
The benefits of producing higher quality RDF fuels are as follows:
The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose by 40% during the 20th and 21st century and is now over 400ppm (parts per million). This level of carbon dioxide is higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years. If the world temperature rises by two degrees, mountain glaciers and rivers will start to disappear, and mountainous regions will see more landslides, as the permafrost that held them together melts away. (METOFFICE)
Our planet is a critical point where if we do not take climate change seriously and learn to adapt to changes that need to be made, future generations will suffer and will not get to enjoy our beautiful planet.
Check out our informational video about food waste!