Climate Change and Waste

"We are playing Russian roulette with features of the planet's atmosphere that will profoundly impact generations to come. How long are we willing to gamble?"
                                                            ~ David Suzuki

Our Wasteful Impact on Climate Change

Rising levels of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are already changing our climate. Some of these emission increases can be traced directly to our solid waste. Solid waste contributes directly to greenhouse gas emissions through the generation of methane from the anaerobic decay of waste in landfills, and the emission of nitrous oxide from our solid waste combustion facilities.  Both of these greenhouse gases have high global warming potential: methane has 21 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide has 310 times the warming potential.

Garbage Footprint

Connecticut residents generate an estimated 5 pounds of garbage every day!  ~CT DEEP
Recycling 1 ton of aluminum is equivalent to not releasing 13 tons of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) into the air.  ~OR DEQ
The energy saved from recycling 1 glass bottle will operate a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.  ~US EPA  



The CT Climate Change Action Plan includes source reduction and recycling as a key strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, of the 55 strategies in the plan, recycling 40% of our municipal solid waste falls within the top ten actions in terms of quantity of projected greenhouse gas reductions. The revision of the source reduction/recycling goal to 58% will result in even greater greenhouse gas reductions.

Although sanitary landfills in Connecticut are closed to municipal trash and only accept bulky waste, our old/closed landfills will continue to generate methane for years to come. We do, however, have control over how much trash we put in our bulky waste landfills and how much we burn in waste-to-energy facilities. We can reduce our waste, reuse our resources, and recycle our waste to reduce emissions – reducing our greenhouse gases!

Learn More

Climate Change  (DEEP)

Climate Change and Waste, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Climate Change Waste: Tools & Resources,  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Materials Management Approaches for State and Local Climate Protection, 2010, EPA Regions 9 and 10

Closing the Loop: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Creating Green Jobs Through Zero Waste in British Columbia,  March 2013, Climate Justice Project

Stop Trashing the Climate, June 2008, Stop Trashing the Climate

Pay-As-You-Throw: A Cooling Effect on Climate Change, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, March 2003

Climate Change and Waste: Reducing Waste Can Make a Difference, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2003

ZeroWaste, Recycling and Climate Change, Bill Sheehan, Grassroots Recycling Network, October 2000

WasteWise: Climate Benefits from Reducing Waste, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, October 1999

Composting: A Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Measure, Californians Against Waste

CT Climate Change: Implications for Solid Waste Management - PowerPoint presentation – Lynn Stoddard, DEEP, CT Solid Waste Management Advisory Committee, August 2007

Northeast Forum on Climate-Waste Connections Webinar Series.  Sponsored by EPA Regions 1 and 2.  Three webinars on the topic of Climate Change and Waste:


Content Last Updated February 2020