- According to new data from the Environmental Protection Agency's annual Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, the waste industry was responsible for 111.7 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2015. This marked a decrease from 112.6 MMT in 2014.
- This data was reported by 1,540 municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills, industrial landfills, wastewater treatment plants and solid waste combustion facilities. MSW landfills were the largest emitters by far, accounting for 81%. This includes any landfill that accepted waste since 1980 and meets certain requirements.
- Texas had the highest amount of CO2e emissions from waste facilities with approximately 11 MMT, followed by California and Florida with approximately 8 MMT each.
EPA notes that this program's data accounts for roughly 85-90% of total emissions across all sectors, but it offers one of the most comprehensive pictures available. Power plants remained the largest sources of emissions by far with 1,1969.3 MMT and almost every sector saw a decrease from last year. While the waste sector's contribution is much smaller in comparison, reducing emissions is still seen as critical for the industry.
Methane reduction is a high priority in President Obama's Climate Action Plan and this has led EPA to introduce new landfill standards recently. Recognizing the challenges in his state, California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed multiple new laws setting high reduction targets for methane and greenhouse gas emissions. New federal emissions standards have also been rolled out for trucks and many companies have begun shifting to compressed natural gas or other alternative fuels.
Reducing food waste 50% by 2030 is seen as a key part of these efforts though this goal also highlights the inherent challenges involved. The environmental costs of transporting and processing organics — as well as some recyclables — must be weighed against the benefits. Few would disagree that more can be done to reduce emissions in the waste industry. Figuring out how to do that in a significant way is the hard part.