Reducing the generation and disposal of waste reduces methane emissions, creates a safer environment, and promotes a circular economy. The County has robust recycling, composting, and waste reduction initiatives that the Climate Action Plan will improve upon.
A Howard County study showed that organic waste makes up 30% of the local municipal solid waste stream. Organic waste in landfills is a significant source of methane (CH4) generation and subsequent emissions. Methane has more than 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Therefore, it is critical to reduce methane emissions wherever possible.
Diversion techniques such as composting organic waste can reduce methane generation. Ensuring that methane generated in landfills is captures and managed using best practices is also very important.
Leading by Example: Feed the Green Bin
Howard County currently has a yard trim collection composting program that serves half of the homes in the County and focuses on food and yard waste. The “Feed the Green Bin” program expands on the yard trim collection by providing optional bins to add food waste collection. Feed the Green Bin is available to 35,653 homes—53% of the County’s households with County service for yard trim collections.
In addition, the Alpha Ridge Landfill has a very high-tech and effective composting operation that produces high-quality products and has received certification of the U.S. Composting Council’s “Seal of Testing Assurance.”
Impact of Plant-Based Diets
Individuals should also make a conscious effort to eat more plants as part of a well-rounded diet, as raising livestock accounts for nearly 15% of direct global emissions each year. This high number is due to the clearing of land to house and feed livestock and the direct emissions livestock like beef produces. Eating a plant-rich diet can also provide an added benefit of improving your health.
Project Drawdown, a comprehensive ranking of climate solutions based on their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, rated this action as fourth out of the top 100 actions to reduce emissions worldwide.
What You Can Do
Reduce Food Waste and Encourage Plant-Rich Diets
Call to Action: Reduce food waste at home and in the grocery store and switch to a more plant-based diet.
Diversion & Source Reduction
Impact of Consumptive Lifestyle
Although difficult to quantify in a local GHG inventory, national and global GHG accounting shows that the amount of waste created per capita in the US contributes significantly to overall GHG emissions. Reducing waste at the source is the most cost efficient and impactful step we can take to reduce emissions from non-organic waste.
Howard County is focused on reducing consumption of waste-heavy products like single-use plastics that generate GHG emissions in their production, transportation, and disposal. Adopting sustainable procurement practices throughout municipal operations can help the County's government lead the way for the community to similarly identify opportunities to reduce waste.
What You Can Do
Buy Less Stuff & Divert Materials From Landfills
Call to Action: Reduce the amount of goods purchased and encourage others to do so as well. Practice and promote the five Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle!