The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2016 have been concretized by the European Commission into framework legislation for more sustainability and climate protection in the member states. As an innovation leader, TOMRA aims to help achieve the goals and take waste management to another level.
A new study commissioned by TOMRA and conducted by EUNOMIA demonstrates the potential for an optimized waste management system as regards climate change. Overall, a reduction of 2.76 billion tonnes of CO2/year is possible.
This reduction can be achieved using Holistic Resource Systems – the optimized combination of key waste management practices for collection, sorting and recycling to facilitate the transition towards a circular economy, which is preventing resource depletion, reducing littering and contributing to a carbon neutral world.
Holistic resource systems are an ideal combination of political framework regulations, such as extended producer responsibility, deposit return schemes, and technical processes for waste handling. London-based consultancy for sustainability Eunomia, has examined various models to identify the most efficient, cost-effective scenario for a holistic system.
The outcome is clear – deposit return systems for PET bottles and metal beverage containers, which deliver a return rate of over 90%, should play a central role in such a system. As regards remaining household waste, only biowaste, paper, textiles, and electrical and electronic equipment should be collected separately. The rest should remain in a mixed waste stream which can be most efficiently separated into reusable materials for further recycling.
This will enable regionally customized holistic models to cut global CO2 emissions by up to 5% - the equivalent of grounding all commercial flights globally and taking 65% of cars off the road.
Now is the time for real action to ensure societies stop wasting resources with all the related negative consequences. In many places the pandemic helped to meet Paris Climate Agreement goals, but even maintaining this level will require determined and consistent implementation, including holistic systems, to close the loops.