Global waste is projected to increase by 70% by 2025. With this rise come increased costs of disposal, less land space to dispose of it, and health risks. Our world is becoming more populated each day and the majority of the growth is in urban areas. Urban areas have high density populations with little storage space forcing people to toss things instead of keeping them to reuse.
With the world hitting its peak in population, we should start to see waste decline due to necessity. The rate at which this declines is mainly determined by the amount of reduction cities are willing to embrace. Some cities already have goals in place like San Francisco’s zero waste by 2020 campaign and Kawasaki, Japan diverting 550,000 tons per year into reusable or recycled materials. Some policies that promote these things are fees on disposal, limitations to what you can dispose of, and markets offering more sustainable products.
Waste levels are the highest today at around 1.75 million tons per day but populations aren’t growing as quickly and waste reduction efforts are underway, are likely to see their trash levels peak by 2050 and then start to decline. Asia-Pacific countries won’t peak until 2075. How soon Sub-Saharan Africa’s waste increase peaks will determine how soon the world’s trash problem begins to decline.
A few countries are leading the waste management movement: India, France, China, Brazil, and Lebanon. India has implemented more laws and criminalizing people who dump or burn waste in undesignated areas. France has mandated that supermarkets cannot create food waste; rather, they have to donate food that is left over or unwanted. This system is encouraged by having a large bulk food selection so people can choose the amount of food they want/need. In Shenzhen, China is the home of the largest waste to energy facility that is able to incinerate 5,000 metric tons of waste per day. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, trash was not previously collected in buns but just tossed across the landscape. Boats have been hired to collect trash 8 hours per day and investments have been put into creating waste management facilities and treatment plants. Lebanon faced a disaster as the only accessible landfill was closed. This sparked debate and 3 landfills were opened to temporarily divert the trash until a better solution is found.
As you can see, the waste management goals are very different from country to country and even city to city. You find places that are attempting to go zero waste while others are looking to have a contained area for trash. All in all, the trash needs to go somewhere whether this means creating a better system to deal with it or by consuming less is what the future will have in store for us. To create a sustainable world, not piled with trash, action must be done whether people want it to or not. We will see in the coming years who steps up to the challenge and who is left picking up the pieces when it comes to waste.