(1) We Each Generate 2.6 Pounds of Garbage a Day
The very notion of all that trash is alarming in and of itself. But we are producing more garbage at a faster rate than ever. The garbage produced by urban dwellers is “growing even faster than the rate of urbanization,” says the World Bank:
Ten years ago, 2.9 billion urban residents generated about 0.64 kg (about 1.4 pounds) of garbage per person per day (0.68 billion tonnes per year).
But today, 3 billion urban dwellers generate 1.2 kg (about 2.6 pounds) — almost twice as much — garbage a day.
In just over a decade, by 2025, the World Bank predicts an increase of 4.3 billion urban residents who will generate 1.42 kg (about 3.1 pounds) per day of municipal solid waste (2.2 billion tonnes per year).
Photo by Alan Stanton
(2) Who Produces the Most Waste?
Photo taken in London by troyjmorris
The richer urban dwellers are, the more garbage they generate. The World Bank notes that OECD countries — the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European countries, Turkey, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Chile — produce 44 percent of the world’s waste.
Another fifth comes from East Asia and the Pacific region countries.
Photo taken in Tokyo by dlisbona
Africa and South Asia generate the least amount of trash at all.
(3) Where Does All the Garbage Go?
Photo taken in Venice by Roberto Trm
Richer countries, which produce most of the global trash heap, do the most to collect their garbage.
But in both rich and poor countries, the vast majority of garbage — 59 percent in both rich and poor countries — ends up in landfill where it is simply covered over. Otherwise, garbage goes to dumps (33 percent in rich countries, 13 percent in poor ones).
Only 2 percent is recycled or turned into compost in rich countries.
Photo taken in Burkina Faso by Marco Bellucci
Zero percent of trash is recycled in poor countries and one percent becomes compost — and one percent goes to people’s incomes.
(4) What Kind of Waste?
Photo of discarded glass candle offerings behind a shrine in Mexico by Wonderlane
Around the globe, organic waste makes up 46 percent of garbage. Paper comprises about 17 percent and plastic about 10 percent; glass and metal make up 9 percent together.
Photo taken in Andhra Pradesh, India, by artist in doing nothing
It goes without saying that all of this garbage has an impact on the environment. Post-consumer waste is estimated to account for about 5 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Methane from landfills accounts for 12 percent of total global methane emissions.
Photo of Manila Bay by ~MVI~
(5) What Can We Do?
Photo by Olishaw
The World Bank offers a few suggestions for policy changes to reduce carbon gas emissions:
- public education;
- pricing mechanisms such as charging for products so as to “stimulate consumer behavior to reduce waste generation and increase recycling” and such as charging more for a higher quantity of waste disposal;
- policies and pricing that will “stimulate demand for products made with recycled post-consumer waste”;
- using compost in public parks and other city-owned property.
There’s been plenty of talk about reducing our carbon footprint. How can we all go about reducing our garbage footprint?
Photo of compost by Joi
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