I’m getting closer to understanding the size of our solid waste issue! This may seem like a peculiar thing to get excited about but the global data has been scarce and hard to put in perspective. Until The World Bank compiled a report, What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management offering, for the first time, consolidated data on municipal solid waste generation, collection, composition, and disposal by country and by region. This massive report includes data tables on urban vs rural populations and corresponding income. Sophisticated data collection technologies made it possible for the World Bank to bring current problems and solutions into better focus. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTURBANDEVELOPMENT/Resources/336387-1334852610766/What_a_Waste2012_Final.pdf
This is a huge accomplishment. Reliable global municipal solid waste (MSW) information is either not available or incomplete, inconsistent, and incomparable. The authors of the report pinpoint the looming crisis in MSW management as living standards rise and urban populations grow making the need for global data crucial in the understanding of the challenges we face.
The World Bank seems especially qualified to deal with this issue. Their mission is to end extreme poverty in a generation and promote shared prosperity, http://www.worldbank.org/en/about , so more waste will be generated as a result of their successes.
“Improving solid waste management, especially in the rapidly growing cities of low income countries, is becoming a more and more urgent issue,” said Rachel Kyte, Vice President, Sustainable Development at the World Bank.
“The findings of this report are sobering, but they also offer hope that once the extent of this issue is recognized, local and national leaders, as well as the international community, will mobilize to put in place programs to reduce, reuse, recycle, or recover as much waste as possible before burning it (and recovering the energy) or otherwise disposing of it,” Kyte said. “Measuring the extent of the problem is a critical first step to resolving it.”
The World Bank study projects a 70% global increase in municipal solid waste by 2025– with developing countries facing the greatest challenges as their waste is expected to more than double.
The projected amount of waste will rise from 1.3 billion tons per year today to 2.2 billion tons per year by 2025. The projected annual global costs will rise from $205 billion to $375 billion per year.
Buying and selling waste at market rates is part of our world economy. Poorer, more rural, countries become dumping grounds for the world’s most challenging waste at minimal rates, while wealthier, more urban, countries generate revenue by selling their disproportionately high amounts of inorganic waste.
Solid waste is the most visible and pernicious by-product of a wealthier, urban, resource-intensive, consumer-based lifestyle. Greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and endocrine disruptors are additional by-products of more urban lifestyles.
Cities, in developing countries, who already cope with burgeoning populations, scarce financial resources, and a limited capacity to manage environmental issues, are facing a sharp rise in the amount and costs of garbage that they will be required to deal with by 2025.
In low-income countries, MSW is often the largest single budget item for cities, and one of the largest employers. This makes waste management the most important service a city can provide. A city that cannot effectively manage its waste is rarely able to manage more complex services such as health, education, or transportation.
China surpassed the United States in 2004 for the world’s most municipal solid waste growth. This corresponds to their increasing urbanization and GDP which in turn generates waste increases and change; the increased consumption of plastics, paper, glass, and aluminum increases while the organics fraction decreases.
“What we’re finding in these figures is not that surprising,” said Dan Hoornweg, lead urban specialist in the Finance, Economics, and Urban Development Department of the World Bank and co-author of the report. “What is surprising, however, is that when you add the figures up, we’re looking at a relatively silent problem that is growing daily. The challenges surrounding municipal solid waste are going to be enormous, on a scale of, if not greater than, the challenges we are currently experiencing with climate change. This report should be seen as a giant wake-up call to policy makers everywhere.”
How You Can Help:
- The World Health Organization has their own perspective concerning this issue. For more details http://www.gdrc.org/uem/waste/swm-fogawa1.htm
- Let your politicians and city leaders know how important this issue is to all of us.
- Become an active member in The Story of Stuff Project http://storyofstuff.org
- Our planet is a small place. Our increasing impact is notably massive. We need to support all of the following more sustainable waste management practices: Anaerobic digestion, Waste to energy, Zero waste, Extended producer responsibility, Waste fighting climate change, Waste to fuel, Source separation of waste, Sorting technology, and Waste Education.