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1. What is climate change?

2. What is the main cause of climate change?

3. What are the consequences of climate change?

4. Which countries are the largest carbon dioxide emitters?

5. Which industries are the primary contributors to climate change?

6. How to adopt better waste management habits to combat climate change

7. What are the benefits of taking climate action?

8. Has COVID-19 affected emissions?

9. What is Commercial Waste Services doing to help the environment?

10. Climate change facts

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1. What is climate change?

Climate change describes “the large-scale shifts in weather patterns caused by rising temperatures.” 

Driven by humans since the Industrial Revolution, according to NASA, climate change pertains to a “change in average conditions” over a period of time, including rising sea levels, melting mountain glaciers and more extreme weather conditions. 

Over the past 100 years, global temperatures have risen by 1 degree Celsius, with 2014 to 2019 being the warmest period since 1880. This change in temperature has not only had a significant impact on precipitation levels and polar ice caps, but also on animals, plant blooming times and the general quality of life for humans. 

At Commercial Waste Services, we are continuously working to be leaders in our industry and find innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality in Westminster.

Download our air quality leaflet to find out more about our efforts.

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2. What is the main cause of climate change?

The ‘greenhouse gas effect’ is a major contributor to climate change and global warming. According to NASA, this is a result of when “the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth towards space.”

What are some of the gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect and prevent heat from leaving the atmosphere?

Carbon dioxide: Carbon dioxide emissions can occur as a result of both natural sources (i.e. respiration and volcanic eruptions) and human activities (i.e. deforestation and burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and power factories, cars, buses, planes). In fact, the burning of fossil fuels around the world emits around 35 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Methane: The emission of methane can happen as a result of irresponsible waste management (i.e. disposing of waste in landfills or open dump sites) as well as the decomposition of waste from agriculture and manure from livestock. Methane is a gas with a very strong climate change risk which has more than 28 times the global warming potential on a 100-year timeline compared to carbon dioxide.

Nitrous oxide: The emission of nitrous oxide can happen as a result of agricultural activities such as soil cultivation practices, farming and the production and use of nitrogen fertilisers. In addition, nitrous oxide is emitted during the treatment of wastewater and fossil fuel combustion in power stations, vehicle combustion engines, factories etc. 

How can the mismanagement of food waste contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change? Read our detailed guide on food waste to discover everything you need to know.

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What are the consequences of climate change?
What is the main cause of climate change?
What is climate change?
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3. What are the consequences of climate change?

Major consequences will arise if climate change continues without improvement:

1. If temperatures rise, sea levels could increase between 26 and 82 cm (10 and 32 inches) by 2100 as a result of melting land ice and the expansion of seawater, leading to flooding and the erosion of coastal areas. Moreover, there could be no summer sea ice cover in the Arctic over the coming decades.

2. Hurricanes are likely to become stronger and more frequent, and rainfall rates are expected to increase and intensify, leading to significant flooding in some regions.

3. In other regions, droughts and heatwaves will intensify, with summer temperatures continuing to rise. Rare and extreme heatwaves could happen almost every other year. This could lead to wildfires, crop loss and drinking water shortages.

4. Drastic and extreme temperature changes can lead to more heat and cold-related deaths.

5. As air quality worsens, deaths related to air pollution will rise. Currently, around 4.6 million people die every year as a result of air pollution.

6. Many terrestrial, freshwater, marine, plant and animal species will move locations or become extinct due to increasing global average temperatures and habitat loss.

7. Coral reefs are expected to decline 70-90% at a warming rate of 1.5 degrees Celsius. If the average global temperature warms by 2 degrees Celsius, all coral reefs could disappear.

8. In tropical forests such as the Amazon, slight changes in climate change can result in increased levels of species extinction. Certain species such as polar bears will not be able to adapt to warmer temperatures and could become extinct.

Ecosystems will continue to change due to habitat loss. Some species will move farther north in cooler areas.

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Ecosystems will continue to change due to habitat loss
Westminster declares climate emergency
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4. Which countries are the largest carbon dioxide emitters?

According to the International Energy Agency, the following statistics are an estimate of CO2 emissions coming from the combustion of fossil fuels such as lignite, coal, natural gas and oil.

As of 2018, China is the highest emitter of annual carbon dioxide, making up 28% of worldwide CO2 emissions, equating to 10.06 gigatonnes (GT). The United States, India, Russia and Japan all make up the top five. The UK ranks 17th after Turkey and Australia, emitting 0.37 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

In order to prevent the average global temperature from increasing beyond 2 degrees Celsius, carbon budgets have to be monitored. Developed by Parliament, carbon budgets are “the amount of carbon dioxide emissions permitted over a period of time to keep within a certain temperature threshold”. This means limiting the amount of carbon emissions between now and 2100 — which could rise by 3 to 4 degrees Celsius if we do not take action now. While the original goal in the UK was to cut 80% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — as of 2019 the objective has shifted to achieve a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Ultimately, reaching this goal means greenhouse gas emissions would be significantly reduced, allowing for climate change to slow down. In a city such as London, dominated by smog and a rapidly growing population, the climate crisis will only become more urgent if action is not taken. In fact, around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint is due to the built environment.

Considerable changes to transport, energy infrastructure, waste management, construction and existing architecture are necessary to achieve this net-zero target by 2050. For instance, to reach this objective, there would need to be almost a 60% decrease in car mileage by 2035.

Read this article to find out more on the steps that need to be taken and the drastic changes required to achieve carbon neutrality.


Related read: Improving traffic congestion and air quality in Westminster with Anglo Office Group

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Which industries are the primary contributors to climate change?
What are the benefits of taking climate action?
Climate change facts
business waste westminster

5. Which industries are the primary contributors to climate change?

When looking at individual gases, carbon dioxide dominated in the UK in 2018, making up for 81% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with methane accounting for 11%, nitrous oxide for 5% and fluorinated gases for 3%. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the UK, the following industries were the top six greenhouse gas emitters in 2018:

  1. Transport: This includes emissions from road transport, aviation, shipping and railways. Around 28% of net greenhouse gas emissions came from the transport sector. This equates to roughly 124.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).
  2. Energy supply: This includes emissions from electricity generation and activities such as mining, refining and manufacturing fuels. The energy supply sector made up for 23% of greenhouse gas emissions, equating at 104.9 MtCO2e.
  3. Industrial and commercial business: This includes emissions from fossil fuel combustion (including electricity generated using fossil fuels), product use as well as refrigeration and air conditioning. Industrial and commercial business attributed to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, equating to 79.0 MtCO2e.
  4. Residential properties: This includes emissions from consumer product use, electricity use as well as fossil fuel combustion used for heating and cooking. The residential sector accounted for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, equating to 69.1 MtCO2e.
  5. Agriculture: This includes emissions from livestock, agricultural soils and machinery. The agricultural sector made up for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, equating to 45.4 MtCO2e.

Waste management: This includes emissions as a result of treating and disposing of waste (both liquid and solid). The waste management sector was one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases, accounting for 5% of emissions (equating to 20.7 MtCO2e). For this sector, methane was the most prominent gas with the majority of emissions coming from landfill sites and wastewater treatment plants. Carbon dioxide is emitted by composting plants and from waste handling and transport operations.

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6. How to adopt better waste management to combat climate change and reduce emissions

As we mentioned, the majority of emissions coming from the waste management sector are from the release of methane in landfill sites. While greenhouse gas emissions from the industry decreased by 67% between 1990 and 2013 (due to improvements made to the design and management of landfill sites), there is still much more to be done. For instance, avoiding sending waste to landfill altogether. From reducing and reusing waste to adopting better recycling habits, with improved waste management we can reduce the release of methane and avoid carbon emitted from manufacturing new materials (i.e. mining and fossil fuel combustion). 


Doing your part as a business to prevent climate change is easy when you have the right support and resources. Below we list a number of ways your business can become more sustainable and contribute to improving the environment through better waste management practices.

Choose a reliable and sustainable commercial waste supplier

Westminster City Council is a Waste Collection Authority (WCA), which makes Commercial Waste Services the legal default collection service in Westminster, collecting waste on every street. This means collections from private commercial waste management providers place an unnecessary burden on the environment since they duplicate journeys that already exist as part of our own collection system. This inefficient set-up is detrimental to the level of traffic congestion and air pollution in the city, harming the health of those working, living in and visiting Westminster.

We offer strong and comprehensive customer service, with quick round-the-clock response times for any unexpected issues, additional collections or ad-hoc requests. Our high level of reliability means that no matter the conditions (bad weather, bank holidays, heavy traffic, mitigating the impact of special events or demonstrations etc.), we will always be there to make your collections.

What more should you look for when choosing a commercial waste partner? Download our guide to discover your key considerations.

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Reduce waste

One of the best ways to reduce waste is to avoid it altogether and devise innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. The major benefit of avoiding waste is that it can save you money from buying new replacement goods and having to pay to get waste collected. You can reduce waste generation and incorporate waste reduction procedures in your business model by applying some of the following examples:

  • Only buy what you need and avoid duplicating orders.
  • Avoid individually packaged items.
  • Buy low-waste products that come with little to no packaging.
  • Avoid single-use items such as single-portion servings, bottles, plates, cups, and cutlery in catering operations.
  • Reduce the use of virgin materials and opt for recycled materials instead.

Find out everything you need to know about plastic waste.

Reuse waste

Make sure to think before throwing anything away. Often different items and materials can be reused multiple times or they can be donated to charity shops. Here are some examples of reuse you can adopt throughout your business:

  • Use folders and scraps of paper for taking notes or writing messages
  • Donate old office furniture such as desks and chairs to charity or second-hand shops
  • Donate or give away your quality surplus food to colleagues, food banks and charities before throwing it away
  • Sell any surplus items online through platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree
  • Verify if appliances or business equipment can be upgraded or repaired before disposing of it and buying something new
Increase your recycling rate

Segregating waste into single streams instead of throwing everything away as general waste or mixed recycling is an effective way to manage your waste and increase your recycling rate.

To get started, assess which materials are in your waste and recycling as this will give you an idea of the different types of collections you will require. If you need our help, why not book a free waste audit?

For example, if your business produces large amounts of one particular material, it is best to keep these for a separate collection (e.g. paper and card in offices or glass in hotels and restaurants). By keeping these materials separate, they can be recycled without passing through a sorting facility.

Working with businesses to increase recycling rates is at the heart of Commercial Waste Services. We encourage businesses to commit to responsible waste management and are dedicated to ensuring our customers’ waste management arrangements are as efficient and effective as possible.

From conducting a full waste audit to helping educate staff on the benefits of segregating different waste streams, we helped Central Hall jump from a recycling rate of 11% to 68%. Click here to learn more about our process.

Adopt best practices with a proper internal bin set-up

To ensure everyone in your business, from staff and cleaners to customers and visitors, is doing their part to dispose of waste and recycling correctly, ensure internal bins are marked with stickers and posters to state what goes in each bin. These are essential to provide all of the information you need to separate your waste in the right manner, avoid contamination and ensure everything ends up in the correct waste stream. 

It is important to note that internal bins should be communal recycling points. Individual desk-side bins promote poor recycling habits and are also more costly to service and maintain.

Recover your waste

In a situation where waste cannot be reduced or reused, the next best step is for the waste to be recovered after recycling to extract its energy contents and recyclable materials such as metals.. For example, food waste is a valuable resource which can either be sent for in-vessel composting where it can be used as compost for soil conditioning, or to an anaerobic digestion facility where it can be digested to create biogas which replaces natural fossil-based gas. 

The biogas can then be used as fuel to generate electricity, or it can be put into the natural gas distribution network. It can also be used to power vehicles instead of petrol or diesel. In addition, this treatment process produces valuable fertilisers for arable land and growing more food.

General waste (sometimes referred to as residual waste or refuse) is waste which cannot be recycled. This waste can be used as fuel at an energy recovery facility, which is a big power station that burns waste rather than gas, coal, or oil to generate low carbon electricity and district heating for nearby homes and businesses. This low-cost supply of energy helps vulnerable residents fight fuel poverty, avoiding the need to heat their homes with expensive natural gas. 

Ready to implement change and get started on your waste management plan? Click on the button below to download our recycling guide.
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What are the benefits of taking climate action??
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7. What are the benefits of taking climate action?

As the UK government looks to reach a net-zero target on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a number of environmental and economic benefits will transpire as a result of combating climate change and global warming.

Cleaner air and transportation

Air pollution causes almost as many deaths as smoking each year in the UK. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is related to a number of diseases including lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory infections.

With the transport sector being among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases, car manufacturers will be looking at new and smart technology to make vehicles more efficient and environmentally-friendly. This includes introducing more electric and hybrid vehicles as well as the development of a more efficient transportation system using alternative fuels. 

This will help improve public health and slow the effects of climate change and global warming.

Fact: At Westminster City Council, we are currently expanding our electric waste collection fleet as part of our efforts to make Westminster carbon-neutral by 2040. Find out more below.

Reducing dependency on fossil fuels

Using energy produced from local, renewable sources instead of fossil fuels will lead to an increase in energy savings. The EU is even looking to halve oil and gas imports by 2050 to reduce dependency. This is especially important as imports often come from politically unstable countries or repressive regimes.

The use of renewable energy also creates more jobs (i.e. with wind and solar power industries). In fact, the UK is looking to create over 120,000 green energy jobs by 2030. These will help with the development of projects which contribute to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero. The number of job opportunities will reach over 400,000 by 2050, at which point the government expects to have developed an energy system relying on renewable electricity, sustainable heating and electric vehicles.

Preserving ecosystems

Currently, rising sea levels threaten coastal barrier reefs, droughts and pests jeopardise forests, and increasing temperatures and ocean acidification are putting fisheries at risk. If global temperatures rise between 2-3 degrees Celsius, 30% of plant and animal species could go extinct. By taking the necessary measures to lower emissions, the likelihood of this will be reduced.

How can your business get started with taking climate action to help improve air quality and public health? We’ve put together a waste reduction guide, ‘9 quick tips for reducing waste to save time, money and the environment’ to help you identify how to reduce waste generation and the best ways to treat your waste.

Download 9 quick tips guide

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8. Has COVID-19 affected emissions?

Despite recent reductions in CO2 emissions over the course of the global pandemic, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere continues to rise. According to National Geographic, as of May 2020, it had increased to 418 parts per million — the highest amount ever recorded in human history. This record was broken even while there were drastic drops in CO2 emissions at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, global daily emissions were 17% lower than in 2019. 

Why is the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere still so high? The significant drop in CO2 emissions over recent months has had little impact simply because of how long greenhouse gases linger in the atmosphere and how much they continue to accumulate. 

Since humans are mostly dependent on carbon as a fuel source, staying home and stopping travel during the pandemic were only small steps towards combating the climate change crisis.

In order to have a significant impact on reducing the effects of climate change, we would need to reduce emissions over a longer period of time to see a decline in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. 

“We have to recognise that technological, behavioural, and structural change is the best and only way to reduce emissions.” Constantine Samaras, energy and climate expert at Carnegie Mellon University

How can you improve air quality in Westminster and have a significant impact on reducing the effects of climate change? Read our article: Climate change on the rise despite drop in carbon emissions during COVID-19

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9. What is Commercial Waste Services doing to help the environment?

In September 2019, we declared a climate emergency. As a result, Westminster City Council is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and for the whole city to follow suit by 2040 — ten years ahead of government targets. So what is Commercial Waste Services doing to reduce emissions and improve air quality in Westminster?

Home to the largest and cleanest waste collection fleet in London, we are currently working to expand our electrically-powered collection fleet. Our vehicles were originally diesel trucks reaching their end-of-life. We are in the process of upcycling them and fitting them with electrical engines to reduce emissions. We then power these vehicles directly using the non-recyclable waste we collect as fuel. The remainder of our existing fleet is fitted with innovative Eminox exhaust filters, which exceed Euro 6 emissions standards. The goal of Euro 6 emissions standards is to reduce harmful levels of exhaust in petrol and diesel vehicles

In addition to our innovative and sustainable waste collection fleet, everything we collect is sent to local high-performing disposal and recycling facilities. The waste is then turned into raw resources for manufacturing and creating new products or turned into renewable energy in the form of electricity and district heating for up to 50,000 London homes each year.

For more information on where we send your waste and recycling, view our interactive recycling locations map.

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10. Climate change facts

  1. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1 degree Celsius since the late 19th century.
  2. Oceans have absorbed the majority of this increase in heat, warming 0.2 degrees Celsius since 1969.
  3. Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tonnes of ice per year between 1993 and 2016, while Antarctica lost 127 billion tonnes of ice during the same period.
  4. Due to climate change, glaciers are retreating around the world, including the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
  5. In the last century, global sea levels have risen 20.3 cm (8 inches).
  6. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by 2 billion tonnes per year.
  7. Between 1970 and 2014, average wildlife populations, including mammals, fish, birds and reptiles have decreased by 60%.
  8. In May 2020, carbon dioxide concentrations had increased to 418 parts per million, the highest ever recorded in human history.
  9. The number of floods and heavy rainfall has doubled since 2004.
  10. Droughts and wildfires have more than doubled in the last 40 years.
  11. 11% of greenhouse gas emissions (caused by humans) are due to deforestation.

Click on the button below to download our guide on sustainability to see what your business can do to deliver your services and products in a more sustainable way to help the environment.

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