September 16th is commemorated as the International Day for the Preservation of Ozone Layer. As you may already know, our blue planet is protected by a shield of gas called ozone, which is naturally present in the earth’s atmosphere, namely in the troposphere and stratosphere.
The Importance of Ozone Layer
Ozone layer in the stratosphere protects Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, making life as we know possible and thriving.
Basically, the Sun emits three types of UV radiation: UV-C, UV-B, and UV-A, and exposure to UV-C radiation is particularly harmful for all life forms. The ozone layer is supposed to absorb this radiation.
In humans, increased exposure to UV-B radiation raises the risks of skin cancer and cataracts, and suppresses the immune system. In addition, excessive UV-B exposure is also damaging for terrestrial plant life, including agricultural crops, single-celled organisms, and aquatic ecosystems.
However, In the mid-1970s, scientists discovered that gases containing chlorine and bromine atoms resulting from human activities could cause ozone depletion, creating a hole on earth’s protective shield. These gases are then labeled ozone-depleting gases (ODSs), and are mainly used in aerosols and cooling, such as refrigerators and air-conditioners.
This finding was alarming since a hole in the ozone layer means increased risks of skin cancer and cataracts, as well as damage to plants, crops, and ecosystems. In addition, estimates made using satellite data and ground instruments have proven that surface ultraviolet radiation has increased in large geographic regions where ozone depletion occurs.
Protecting the Ozone through Responsible Waste Management
How does responsibly managing one’s waste contribute to the protection of the ozone layer? Well, we have learned that human activities resulted in the emission of ozone-depleting substances (ODS), which are then being regulated by the Montreal Protocol. The most-known examples of these ODS are the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which is used in almost all refrigeration and air conditioning systems.
However, there are also other less-known, non-halogen gases that participate in the destruction of the ozone layer, which are methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Methane is generated from human activities such as livestock, fossil fuel extraction and use, rice agriculture, and, obviously, landfills.
How Waste Generate Methane
Emission from the waste industry comes primarily from methane, which is produced from the anaerobic decomposition of organic materials in a landfill. When we don’t sort our waste according to its category, especially organic waste, it becomes difficult to recycle. These mixed waste would then have nowhere to go besides the landfill.
In 2010, according to the Global Methane Initiative, global landfill sites were responsible for emitting around 800 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent methane. Moreover, in 2014 alone, landfills in the U.S released an estimated 163 million tons of methane to the atmosphere according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Furthermore, the way we handle our waste, namely illegal waste burning, is alarming too because it does not address the root of the problem. Sure, it might help reduce the pile of waste in landfills, but illegal waste burning itself produces a variety of pollutants, among which is carbon dioxide.
Not only do methane damage our planet’s ozone layer, but they also contribute to the climate crisis, as methane is categorized as a short-lived greenhouse gas known to be 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a twenty year cycle (zerowasteeurope).
Responsible Waste Management is Key
So, what should we do? Reducing waste from the source remains the ultimate solution, but managing the waste that is inevitable is equally important. Start segregating your waste according to its category, separate the organic from inorganic, and compost your organic waste at home.
Sorted waste will make it a lot easier to recycle, and we need to make sure that they are recycled instead of disposed of to the landfills. That way, we prevent the waste from ending up in landfills and emitting methane gas instead.
One can even go the extra mile and collect the already-discarded-waste through a service called waste credit.
Waste Credit, the latest service from Waste4Change will help companies and businesses to offset their waste emission by collecting waste from the environment, either through Material Recovery or Water Cleanup. The collected waste will then be processed and recycled accordingly.
Find out more about how to remove waste from the environment, protect our ozone layer, and slow down climate change all at the same time.