Carbon Free Boston: Waste Technical Report
Castigliego, Joshua R.
Walsh, Michael J.
Cleveland, Cutler J.
MetadataShow full item record
Citation (published version)Castigliego, Joshua R., Michael J. Walsh, Adam Pollack, and Cutler J. Cleveland. 2019. Carbon Free Boston: Waste Technical Report (Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy, Boston, MA, USA). Available at http://sites.bu.edu/cfb/technical-reports.
OVERVIEW: For many people, their most perceptible interaction with their environmental footprint is through the waste that they generate. On a daily basis people have numerous opportunities to decide whether to recycle, compost or throwaway. In many cases, such options may not be present or apparent. Even when such options are available, many lack the knowledge of how to correctly dispose of their waste, leading to contamination of valuable recycling or compost streams. Once collected, people give little thought to how their waste is treated. For Boston’s waste, plastic in the disposal stream acts becomes a fossil fuel used to generate electricity. Organics in the waste stream have the potential to be used to generate valuable renewable energy, while metals and electronics can be recycled to offset virgin materials. However, challenges in global recycling markets are burdening municipalities, which are experiencing higher costs to maintain their recycling. The disposal of solid waste and wastewater both account for a large and visible anthropogenic impact on human health and the environment. In terms of climate change, landfilling of solid waste and wastewater treatment generated emissions of 131.5 Mt CO2e in 2016 or about two percent of total United States GHG emissions that year. The combustion of solid waste contributed an additional 11.0 Mt CO2e, over half of which (5.9 Mt CO2e) is attributable to the combustion of plastic . In Massachusetts, the GHG emissions from landfills (0.4 Mt CO2e), waste combustion (1.2 Mt CO2e), and wastewater (0.5 Mt CO2e) accounted for about 2.7 percent of the state’s gross GHG emissions in 2014 . The City of Boston has begun exploring pathways to Zero Waste, a goal that seeks to systematically redesign our waste management system that can simultaneously lead to a drastic reduction in emissions from waste. The easiest way to achieve zero waste is to not generate it in the first place. This can start at the source with the decision whether or not to consume a product. This is the intent behind banning disposable items such as plastic bags that have more sustainable substitutes. When consumption occurs, products must be designed in such a way that their lifecycle impacts and waste footprint are considered. This includes making durable products, limiting the use of packaging or using organic packaging materials, taking back goods at the end of their life, and designing products to ensure compatibility with recycling systems. When reducing waste is unavoidable, efforts to increase recycling and organics diversion becomes essential for achieving zero waste. [TRUNCATED]
Part of a series of reports that includes: Carbon Free Boston: Summary Report; Carbon Free Boston: Social Equity Report; Carbon Free Boston: Technical Summary; Carbon Free Boston: Buildings Technical Report; Carbon Free Boston: Transportation Technical Report; Carbon Free Boston: Energy Technical Report; Carbon Free Boston: Offsets Technical Report; Available at http://sites.bu.edu/cfb/
RightsCopyright © 2019 by the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy. This work and its associated results are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.