Special Reports and Research
Whether a community is recycling and composting 50%, 70% or 90% of its discards, there still remain thousands of tons of mixed-waste residuals (the “leftovers”) that need to be managed and disposed of, most commonly in landfills. The question before us and addressed in this study is: “What is the best method for managing our residuals in order to reduce the harm and risks to public health and our environment?”
The study found MRBT-to-landfill had the lowest overall environmental and human health impacts of all the disposal technologies. It is reasonable to conclude that the MRBT option is not only the best environmental practice for managing residuals, but is also the best community strategic option as well.
In several Zero Waste programs across the country, plastic-coated paper products like milk cartons and coffee cups are accepted in compost bins. Eco-Cycle has funded groundbreaking research from the highly-respected Woods End® Laboratories in Maine and international composting expert Will Brinton showing that these plastic coatings DON’T go away in the composting process. In fact, the plastic breaks down into tiny micro-particles, not visible to the naked eye, that remain in the compost and eventually make their way into our soils and waterways, adding to the growing problem of plastic pollution in the environment. In addition, new research indicates that micro-plastics may be harmful to living organisms in many ecosystems.
View our groundbreaking research and check out our toolkit to help make sense of the different types of food packaging on the market today, what products are safe to include in composting programs, why plastic coatings pose a serious threat to our environment, and now who’s meeting best practices with plastic-coated food packaging. Take action in your community to keep plastics out of our environment.
Stop Trashing the Climate, co-authored by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Eco-Cycle and GAIA, proves a Zero Waste approach is one of the fastest, cheapest and most effective strategies to protect the climate. Significantly decreasing waste disposed in landfills and incinerators will reduce greenhouse gas emissions the equivalent to closing 21% of U.S. coal-fired power plants. This is comparable to leading climate protection proposals such as improving national vehicle fuel efficiency. Indeed, preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling, and composting are essential to put us on the path to climate stability.
The pioneers of the Zero Waste movement in the U.S. —Eco-Cycle among them—were very clear in the mid-90s that zero waste to landfill was not the same thing as Zero Waste. Zero Waste is about making the best choice with our natural resources — from extraction to production to consumption to disposal. It involves a constant evaluation about our materials’ choices and a strong commitment to eliminating waste, not just treating it.
We continue to oppose WTE as a part of Zero Waste because WTE:
- has the most greenhouse gases (GHG) per fuel type
- its emissions contain dangerous air pollutants
- is the most expensive form of electricity
- fails to create a fraction of the jobs created by recycling and composting
- produces only a fraction of the energy that can be saved through recycling
Learn more and download Waste OF Energy: Why Incineration is Bad for our Environment, Economy and Community.
The business community has embraced the concept of Zero Waste as a way to improve efficiencies, reduce production waste and save money. Unfornately there has been a wave of initiatives under the guise of "Zero Waste to landfill" which are accepting high levels of waste incineration.