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  • Writer's picturelisa

The undeniable link between wild litter and global warming.

Climate change is one of the most urgent and critical challenges facing our planet today. While many factors contribute to this problem, one of them, often neglected, is the issue of litter. Litter has a devastating impact on our environment, and in addition to polluting biodiversity, it also contributes to climate change.

Plastic waste: a threat to biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.

Plastics are one of the main types of litter present in our oceans, rivers, and lands. According to a study published in the journal Science (in 2022), about eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year. These plastics break down into microplastics and are ingested by fish, seabirds, and other marine species, causing serious damage to marine biodiversity. In addition, the production and destruction of plastics also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), plastic production emits about 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

During the decomposition of plastics, they release methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas that has a global warming potential 25 times higher than that of carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years.

Their impact is significant on climate change and the environment in general. It is important to dispose of them properly and raise public awareness.

What is the link between 'Photosynthesis' and 'Wild waste'?

Plants that absorb carbon are commonly called "carbon sinks". They can absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, a natural process where plants use sunlight to convert CO2 into organic matter, while releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Forests, grasslands, soils, and oceans are all examples of natural carbon sinks. Forests are considered the largest terrestrial carbon sinks, as trees store large amounts of carbon in their biomass and soil. Carbon sinks are important in the fight against climate change because they can help reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and thus slow down global warming.

However, litter present in excessive quantities can obstruct photosynthesis by limiting the amount of light available to plants. An Environmental Pollution study published in 2022 found that the presence of plastic litter on the ground had reduced the amount of light reaching plants by nearly 30% compared to clean soil.

Furthermore, litter can also reduce photosynthesis efficiency by blocking stomata, small pores on plant leaves that regulate gas exchanges (CO2 and O2) with the atmosphere. Studies have shown that the presence of litter, especially plastic litter, can clog stomata and thus reduce the plant's ability to absorb the CO2 needed for photosynthesis.

Finally, litter can also have a negative impact on soil quality, which can reduce the plant's ability to perform photosynthesis. For example, studies have shown that the presence of organic litter, such as food waste or plant waste, can increase the rate of decomposition in the soil, which can reduce the availability of nutrients.

There are solutions to reduce litter and its impact on climate change. Governments can invest in waste management infrastructure, such as treatment and recycling facilities, and implement policies to encourage citizens to reduce their waste production. Businesses can also play a role by developing more sustainable packaging and promoting environmentally friendly business practices.

With Jelly'Up, the jobs created allow for sustainable nature clean-up.

Spotlight on one of the teams in Africa, where Waste Rangers clean a Wetland near Cape Town every week, a wetland full of animal and plant species. Today, wild waste threatens this carbon sink by covering this ecosystem, limiting its ability to act and more generally to live.

Kanyisa, Waste ranger, South Africa.

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