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Explanation of terms

Agenda 21

At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 world leaders signed a global environment and development action plan called Agenda 21. Over two thirds of this plan cannot be put in to effect without the commitment of local government throughout the world. Each local authority has been encouraged to adopt its own Local Agenda 21 (LA21) setting out its own sustainable development strategy at the local level. This involves working with local businesses, community and voluntary organisations with the ultimate goal of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and in the future.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a gas produced by natural respiration in plants and animals and also by combustion of organic material (wood, coal, natural gas and petrol). It is not in itself toxic, but if placed in a confined space without circulation of air, the levels of oxygen needed for respiration will be consumed and the levels of 'waste' CO2 will rise.

In nature, green plants use CO2 in photosynthesis and release oxygen, as a by-product, back into the atmosphere.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are volatile liquids whose comparative low toxicity and inert nature means they have been used widely as coolants, propellants and solvents. However, man-made CFCs are the main cause of stratospheric ozone depletion. They have created a hole in the ozone layer which allows harmful ultraviolet radiation to pass through.

Although emissions of CFCs around the world have been greatly reduced due to international control agreements, CFCs will remain in the atmosphere for twenty to a hundred years. Therefore the damage to the ozone layer will continue in years to come.

Climate Change

One of today's greatest concerns is that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising faster than green plants make use of it in photosynthesis. This leads to the Greenhouse Effect whereby heat from the sun is trapped within the earth's atmosphere by high levels of CO2, rather than being radiated back into space. This is a contributing factor in global warming.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are a group of man-made compounds. Since most HCFCs are broken down within the lower parts of the atmosphere they pose a smaller risk to the ozone layer than CFCs. For this reason HCFCs have replaced CFCs in the production of rerfrigeration, aerosol propellants, air conditioning systems and foam manufacture. However, HCFCs are known greenhouse gases and a major contributor to global warming.


Phosphates are essential constituents for healthy plant and animal life. However, when phosphate-containing compounds rise to excessive levels in rivers and lakes, blue-green algae will flourish. This smothers all other life forms in the water course by depriving them of the oxygen which is so vital for their existence.


Besides conserving natural raw materials, recycling saves energy, reduces pollution and cuts down the amount of waste going to landfill sites. Ultimately, for recycling to work, there must be a demand for products containing recycled materials. Therefore, consumers are encouraged to purchase recycled products wherever possible.Try to establish and support waste collection schemes in the workplace and at home. Try to sort out waste so that different types go to the right locations. It is possible to 'contaminate' waste by mixing two otherwise recyclable substances together.