One return Australia flight ‘wipes out benefits from 20 years of recycling’

Flying off on just one holiday is so bad for global warming that it wipes out the benefits of 20 years of recycling, a new study claims.

Although householders are encouraged to save and sort their rubbish, new research from the University of Lund in Sweden, and the University of British Columbia, Canada, has shown that it has far less impact when compared with cutting down on flights, going car free or switching to a vegetarian diet.

The new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, argues that governments and schools must do more to communicate the most effective ways for people to reduce their carbon footprint rather than concentrating on practices which have little impact.

Consumers should be advised to avoid air travel, live car-free, eat a plant-based diet and have smaller families, instead of encouraging recycling of waste, or switching to energy saving light bulbs.

Avoiding a one-way transatlantic flight could save around 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, while a round-trip to Australia would prevent 4 tonnes – 20 times the saving made by a year’s recycling, which is around 200 kg a year.

“Those of us who want to step forward on climate need to know how our actions can have the greatest possible impact,” said lead author Seth Wynes, a doctoral student of the University of British Columbia.

“This research is about helping people make more informed choices. Living car-free saves about 2.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, while eating a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes.

“These actions, therefore, have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling which is four times less effective than a plant-based diet or changing household light bulbs, which is eight times less effective.”

The research analysed 39 peer reviewed papers, carbon calculators, and government reports to calculate the potential for individual lifestyle choices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Share article

View Comments

Jacobs Media is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.