Industrial Recycling Would Save 2.8 Gigatons of Carbon by 2050
Industrial recycling ranks #56 on Drawdown’s list of climate solutions, with potential to keep 2.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over a 30-year period. Using commercial waste to produce new products also addresses another persistent problem: the scarcity that occurs when industries use virgin resources faster than the Earth can reproduce them.
“Household and industrial recycling are keystone elements of a circular economy that provides industry with feedstocks to produce needed goods with fewer emissions incurred,” the summary says.
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Drawdown acknowledges that not all waste can be recovered and recycled. But metals, glass, plastics, and many other materials can be processed and reused. The World Bank foresees global organic waste totalling about 1459 million tonnes by 2050, and while reliable projections on the adoption of recycling vary, an implementation rate of 65% by 2050 would hit Drawdown’s carbon reduction target while delivering net operational savings of US$142 billion.
To achieve those results, Drawdown describes a “suite of strategies,” including:
• Recycling incentives that hold manufacturers responsible for managing what happens to goods after they’re used;
• Marketplaces that enable the exchange of recyclable materials;
• Development of new technologies to recycle a wider variety of materials;
• Transforming the traditional make-take-waste business model to a circular make-take-reuse approach.
The summary sees industrial recycling leading to an emerging job market and lower implementation costs, as innovations make the process more efficient. It also predicts that new technologies for material and product recycling, waste identification and sorting, waste disassembly and shredding, and material recovery will have “positive impacts on lowering first costs and operating costs of recycling”.
The summary calculates the initial implementation cost for commercial and industrial recycling at $367 billion. “However, when revenues from recovered materials are included in comparison to the costs of virgin materials, operating recycling facilities costs less than operating landfills and sourcing virgin material feedstocks for industry,” Drawdown states.