According to the latest report by the World Bank, by 2050, global waste generation is expected to grow to 3.4 billion tonnes per year. This means a 70% increase compared to 2016 levels. The growth of global municipal solid waste will mainly affect the poorest countries. Those countries do not have enough resources to properly manage their waste. On the other hand, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will grow too, as they are linked to global waste generation. Thus, this situation will have a significant impact on global GHG emissions targets and commitments.
The main causes of such increase entail economic development and population growth. They found a positive connection between waste generation and income level. Following that, they estimate a 19% increase in daily per capita waste generation in high-income countries by 2050. Regarding low- and middle-income countries, they project it to increase by nearly 40% or more. The findings suggest that waste generation increases at a faster path in lower-income countries experiencing rises in their income levels.
Key findings on global waste generation
- The world generates 0.74 kilograms of waste per capita per day.
- In low-income countries, waste generation may increase by more than three times by 2050. It will be especially dramatic in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Food and green waste make up more than 50% of total waste in low- and middle-income countries. In high-income countries, there is a lower share due to packaging and a higher percentage of non-organic waste.
- Globally, 37% of waste is disposed of in some sort of landfill, only 8% of them being sanitary and using gas collection systems. Open dumping represents 33%. Recycling and composting accounts for 19%. Finally, 11% use modern incineration systems.
- In low-income countries, they dump 93% of their waste.
Why is global waste generation a problem?
Global waste management has improved in recent years. Despite that, the world requires urgent action to tackle several issues. Indeed, waste mismanagement negatively affects people and the environment. Besides, it impacts more violently the most vulnerable: women, children, and lower-income countries.
Increases plastic pollution
In 2016, the world produced 242 million tonnes of plastic waste. That is the equivalent of 12% of total municipal solid waste (MSW). Most of this waste comes from three regions: East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and North America. In addition, plastic waste causes significantly more impact than other waste.
First of all, plastic takes hundreds of thousands of years to decompose. Even plastics designed to be biodegradable may not completely disappear. The reason for that is that plastic degradation depends largely on light exposure, oxygen, and temperature. Therefore, plastic usually accumulates in the ocean depths where there is a lack of these conditions.
On the other hand, light exposure melts the plastic into tiny particles. These microparticles are known as microplastics and are almost impossible to recover. In addition, even if we can recover them, many countries lack the means. As a matter of fact, in 2017 Europe exported one-sixth of its plastic waste, primarily to Asia.
The case of marine litter
Plastic pollution is particularly harmful to marine ecosystems. Studies suggest plastic composes 90% of marine debris, of which nearly 62% is food and beverage packaging. It is worth mentioning that a study found the presence of marine litter in all turtles studied. Also, in 59% of whales, 36% of seals, and 40% of seabirds.
Consequently, in some countries, people burn or dump plastics. As a result, plastic waste accumulates in streets and the environment. Eventually, they block drainage systems and cause deadly floods. They also choke entangled animals or block their stomachs. Furthermore, plastics become part of the food chain and damage the organism. Despite all that, the consumption of plastic is still increasing.
| How does plastic harm the environment?
✔ Deterioration of the living environment.
✔ It chokes and causes death to animals.
✔ Blocks drainage system blockage and floods.
✔ Enters the food chain and impacts health.
✔ Pollutes the air, soil, and water.
Contributes to climate change
Waste management contributes nearly 5% to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The growth of global waste generation may increase GHG emissions to 2.6 billion tonnes per year. In 2016, annual GHG emissions accounted for 1.6 billion tonnes. Thus, this would constitute a 62,5% increase in emissions.
The main cause of such growth relates to food waste and waste mismanagement. Waste decomposition in landfills releases methane. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG). In addition to that, improper transport of waste and burning also liberate harmful gases. According to the same report, just a basic improvement in waste management could reduce emissions to more than 25%. Also, a report estimated they could reduce GHG emissions to 200 million tonnes per year by 2030.
Increases inequality and the gap between high-income and low-income countries
In low- and middle-income countries, more than 15 million people make a living from the trash they find in landfills. Only in China, between 3.3 and 5.6 million people depend upon the waste sector. In addition, waste-pickers are usually women, children, elders, migrants, and unemployed people. The number of female waste-pickers often surpasses the number of males. In Vientiane (Laos) and Cusco (Peru), 50% and 80% of waste-pickers are females. In Gnjilane, Kosovo, 40% of waste-pickers are children.
Both working and living close to landfill areas have severe health impacts. In such places, the incidence of diarrhea is twice as high. Also, acute respiratory infections are six times higher. Last but not least, landfills feed and host pests and disease carriers such as rats, mosquitos, and others.
Thereupon, waste-pickers often work under unsanitary conditions and without any social security. Plus, they lack job opportunities and face strong social stigma for a job that is badly rewarded. In the end, waste mismanagement affects the most vulnerable and increases inequality.
REVALUO, the low-carbon waste-to-energy solution
In conclusion, the growth in global waste generation deteriorates people’s living conditions and ruins the environment. It increases mortality, causes economic loss, and threatens biodiversity and life on the planet. The need for efficient waste management systems and a more sustainable economic model become more evident. Solutions exist.
REVALUO is our non-burn waste-to-energy system. It reduces municipal solid waste (MSW) by 85 – 90% and transforms it into a variety of value-added products. In addition, our waste treatment uses non-burn technology. This technology significantly reduces carbon emissions in the process to almost zero emissions. Thanks to our system, we can end up with plastic pollution, harmful gases, and leachate in a clean and profitable way.
| The benefits of REVALUO
✔ It ends with landfilling and reduces municipal solid waste (MSW).
✔ There is a return on investment. We use waste as a resource.
✔ Uses non-burn and low-carbon technology.
✔ Creates new job opportunities and boosts local economies.
✔ Saves energy and raw materials.