Strategies focused on land reuse practices – including the reuse of formerly contaminated sites, recycling, waste reduction, and smart growth – can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, according to a new report.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s report, “Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices,” (PDF) finds that 42 percent of U.S. GHG emissions are impacted by materials management policies. This includes the impacts from extracting raw materials, food processing, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of products.
An additional 16 to 20 percent of emissions are associated with land management policies, which includes emissions from passenger transportation, construction, and lost vegetation when greenfields are cleared for development. EPA says the equivalent of 13 percent of U.S. emissions is absorbed by soil and vegetation and can be protected or enhanced through land management policies.
The report indicates that there are several primary activities that have the potential to decrease emissions. These include reducing the use of non-packaging paper products, increasing municipal recycling and recycling of construction and demolition debris; reusing land including redevelopment of formerly contaminated lands, reusing formerly contaminated lands for renewable energy development, and encouraging smart growth.
As an example, in 2006 U.S. municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling resulted in the avoidance of nearly 183 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2E) in GHG emissions, and waste-to-energy recovery systems resulted in the avoidance of 17 MMTCO2E in GHG emissions.
The report suggests that land management and materials management approaches should be part of the nation’s strategy to meet the target of an 83 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2050.