COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference was the 26th running of the international climate summit. It was held this year in Glasgow and jointly hosted by the UK and Italy. However, the summit surprisingly and rather disappointingly, had no official attendance by any candidate, party, or official body that represented the global waste industry. Efficient, clean, and well-managed waste streams are a critical cog in the climate change battle machine, and while there was no official representation at the negotiation table, there are still some things we can take from COP26. We can apply it to how we create, manage and dispose of waste to ensure that we’re moving towards the greenest future imaginable.

As COP26 President, Alok Sharma, announced a late change in the wording of the climate pact agreed by nations attending the summit, he appeared to break down. A change in the wording from “phasing out coal” to “phasing down” seemed to overwhelm Mr. Sharman. Critics of the summit have labeled it a failure in the battle to keep climate change and the rise in global average temperatures to 1.5 degrees. Supporters of COP26 see the 26th running of the summit as a historic achievement where for the first time in history there was even a mention of coal at all. But what are the goals and objectives of COP26 and how can the waste industry and its stakeholders support the overall values and desired outcomes of the climate summit?

COP26 sets out to get nations together to address critical issues facing climate change. In short, the summit discusses the issues, the causes of climate change and begins to flesh out a road map away from climate disaster. This road map is then agreed on by the nations in attendance and although, yes, targets have been missed in the past, COP26 pacts do drive an agenda of positive change.

Carbon emissions are the big talking point. It’s the amount of carbon and fossil fuels that each nation is producing that’s driving rapid global warming. This is already affecting all of us on a global scale but it’s the world’s poorest nations that are unable to adapt to climate change and it’s these nations who feel the effects of it the hardest. Fires, droughts, floods, storms, and famine are ravaging these communities who remain simply unable to manage and adapt to the unfolding climate crisis.

From a waste industry perspective, there’s a number of things we can do to lessen the burden on the climate and in turn, the world’s poorest nations.

Shipping Waste Offshore

Shipping waste offshore often directly affects the world’s poorest regions. If we’re looking to protect these populations from the effects of climate change, the waste industry can play a direct role in improving their environments. When waste is shipped from first-world countries like here in here in the UK and sent to third-world regions, it often ends up in poorly managed makeshift landfill sites. These sites are notorious for poisoning and polluting local water supplies, cutting off vital water sources for food production, cooking and consumption.

By better managing waste at the country of origin, we’re not only able to mitigate the direct and devastating harm that waste can do to these nations but we can reduce the carbon footprint of shipping our waste offshore in the first place.

Over Production and Consumption

Let’s face it, we are wasteful! Our GPT team is often tasked with efficiently disposing of excess stock, furniture, and equipment simply because it’s been over-ordered in the first instance. Not only does the shipping, storing, and then disposal of this excess create unnecessary strain on the environment but the needless production of it in the first place has a price on the climate.

The GPT team has conducted waste audits at countless organizations where we’ve been able to work together in not only the efficient disposal of excess stock and equipment but we’ve helped firms identify oversupply and reduce their ordering and purchasing in the first place.

Understanding What is Your Waste

When we conduct our waste audits one of the most eye-opening cost savings for firms is the identification of waste, and more importantly, who should be charged to dispose of it. From pallets, packaging and over-stocking, understanding that there can be a conversation between firm and supplier on who’s waste is who’s has the ability to save critical cost but importantly begin conversations around excess and needless waste right through the supply chain.

Understanding Where Your Waste Goes

In the UK currently, there is a dogfight for waste.  High demand for energy from the waste sector is seeing more waste burned by tonne than we send to recycling. Energy from waste does have some fantastic qualities and plays a crucial part in the waste hierarchy. But, when clean and high-grade recyclate is diverted from recycling plants and ends up being burnt we churn out more carbon by producing from new each time around.

Energy from waste does have a number of benefits in the fight against carbon emissions. However; by diverting waste that will end up in landfills, a destructive environmental issue on its own, and burning it efficiently, we create energy that goes back into the grid for homes and industry. It’s this cleaner energy that can help drive demand down for fossil fuel energy sources like coal and gas, thus helping keep carbon emissions in check.

Conducting a Waste Audit

Conducting a company-wide waste audit with the GPT Waste team is critical for not only reducing the environmental impact but also driving down waste costs. Understanding where efficiencies lay, setting goals and green targets, and working with waste stream stakeholders can lead to a cleaner, greener, and cheaper waste management process. We’ve helped hundreds of firms across the UK improve their green credentials and drive down waste costs significantly.

COP26 proved to be a significant moment where the world’s nations got together to robustly discuss the climate crisis and how to mitigate it. Changes at a governmental level will begin to wash through from these summits and while change can sometimes be deemed as slow, it’s poignant moments like these that lead to better global outcomes over time.

From a waste sector standpoint, we can make significant changes now in the UK which help lead to the supporting of governmental goals like reduced carbon and greenhouse emissions. If we can do this while cleaning up the environment at home in the UK and also while driving down waste management costs, then there are positives that we can all take from the wider climate discussions.

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GPT Waste offers an industry-leading, transparent and technology-backed offering to the UK waste sector. We can offer strategic reviews of your waste management requirements in order to identify environmental and cost benefits. Our approach has made us the UK’s leading independent waste management company. To speak to our expert team about your waste management requirements, call 0844 854 5000 or email info@gptwaste.com.