Waste management – 10 things you should know

  1. By 2050, the world is expected to generate 3.40 billion tons of waste annually, increasing drastically from today’s 2.01 billion tons.
  2. Around 12% of that is plastic.
  3. Worldwide, waste generated per person per day averages 0.74 kg and as with statistics, this can show a curved truth – because statistically, my dog and I have 3 legs. This amount, in fact, varies from 0.11 kg to 4.54 kg.
  4. Rapid urban growth without proper waste management systems following it are common.
  5. Our garbage is responsible for generating around 5% (1.6 billion tones of CO2-equivalent) of greenhouse gas emissions. This is most likely to increase by 60% (!) by 2050.
  6. Poorly managed waste is contaminating the world’s oceans, clogging drains and causing flooding, transmitting diseases, increasing respiratory problems, harming animals that consume waste unknowingly, and affecting economic development.
  7. Developed countries generate less food/green waste and more dry waste eligible for recycling (paper, plastic, metal, glass) – the ration is 32% to 51%.
  8. Low- mid-income countries generate over 50% of green waste and only 16% of materials that could be recycled.
  9. In high-income countries, the daily waste generation is projected to grow by 19 percent by 2050.
  10. In low- and middle-income countries that rate is anticipated to reach 40 percent and since in these regions the majority of trash is currently openly dumped – with those projections it creates vast implications for environment and health.

Urban waste management is expensive and the more developed the country, the more trash it’s citizens produce. However, despite the obvious connections of waste management with the environment and our health we don’t treat it similarly to energy or water. We pay for how much energy, heat, and water we use but we apply fixed charges for garbage, which makes it more difficult for us to even notice what more understand the problem. Why should I care about producing less trash, when all it causes for me is more trouble, providing only- if I care – the satisfaction of doing well by the Planet. The data about our continuous increase in waste generation is a clear signal that this satisfaction is not enough for most people. 

To learn more – read the overview of the World Bank’s report. Below graphic also comes from the mentioned report.

Screen Shot 2020-02-22 at 18.42.13

Some light at the end of the tunnel

An alternative approach was taken by Sweden and Japan – which burn their garbage and use the heat from the process to produce energy. While this also isn’t a totally green solution, it is at least an alternative. With Sweden’s increasing recycle rate and ambitious renewable energy plan – they are on track to achieve zero greenhouse emissions by 2045.

On 10th of May 2019 – 180 countries in Geneva agreed to add mixed plastic scrap to the Basel Convention. Which basically means that shipping trash from rich to poor countries just got harder. Nice article from National Geographic here.

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