We're Tripling Our Trash
BOSTON ( MainStreet) The amount of garbage humans create is growing rapidly and is set to peak sometime early next century, according to the World Bank , with solid waste from booming human populations projected to triple by 2100.
The estimates are an expansion on the findings of the report What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management , released by the World Bank last year.
The report concluded that global solid waste generation was on a path to rise 70% by 2025, increasing from more than 3.5 million tonnes a day in 2010 to more than 6 million a day. These increases would also have serious financial implications, with global costs of waste management projected to increase from an estimated $205 billion annually in 2010 to approximately $375 billion.
The original report written by former World Bank urban development specialist Dan Hoornweg with Perinaz Bhada-Tata says solid waste is expected to reach more than 11 million tonnes daily around the turn of the next century.
The problem will be particularly concentrated in cities and developing countries, since solid waste is mostly an "urban phenomenon." Cities generate between twice and quadruple the amount of waste per capita than rural communities that rely less on packaging and create less food waste, the study says.
As urbanization has increased around the world, so has the amount of trash. "As a country becomes richer, the composition of its waste changes. With more money comes more packaging, imports, electronic waste and broken toys and appliances," Hoornweg and his colleagues say in an article on the findings published last month in Nature. "The wealth of a country can readily be measured, for example, by how many mobile phones it discards."
Yet, the Nature article also says that as urbanites become wealthier, they tend to begin curtailing the amounts of waste they create after hitting a peak.
In the new findings, the World Bank experts conclude that many of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries might actually see their trash levels peak by 2050 and begin to decline with decreasing human populations and better efforts in recycling and waste management. The study points at San Francisco, which recycles or reuses more than half of its solid waste and has set a goal to achieve "zero waste" status by 2020.
But waste amounts in many Asia-Pacific countries are not expected to peak until 2075, and sub-Saharan Africa will likely not peak until the next century unless serious efforts are undertaken to address waste management in the region.
The findings pose serious implications for government budgets and public services, as many cities are already struggling with too much trash. Some places such as Mexico City's Bordo Poniente and Shanghai's Laogang already create more than 10,000 tonnes of waste per day. Solid waste in such places is being generated faster than other environmental pollutants, including greenhouse gases, and its management makes up one of the greatest shares of most municipal budgets.