Global Waste

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.

Electronic Waste

E-waste (aka electronic waste) is the name given to waste nearing the end of its useful life cycle. E-waste accounts for over 70% of the toxic waste disposed of each year. This is 20-40 million metric tons of waste disposed of worldwide. With many electronics containing precious metals, it is estimated that $100 million of gold and silver end up in a landfill every year. The majority of e-waste isn’t waste at all, but then again how much of all of our waste is actually ‘waste’?
Electronics have been an integral part of globalization. With computers came access to a web of knowledge and cell phones and unending access to people across the globe. There are few things that hold us apart besides geographic area. The speed at which electronics become out of date is almost instantaneously as you buy them. This is not to say that they are suddenly obsolete but there will always be a better product out there. Over 60% of adults in developed countries own a cell phone with 87% of them being internet users. We can compare this to developing countries where 20% have cell phones and roughly 40% are internet users. When thinking about this in a large scale, that’s a lot of technology. Where does it all go?
Think about the phone you own…how long have you had it? A year, 6 months? When does your provider say you are due for a new cell phone? I know mine says about every two years I can upgrade mine for a lower cost. Rarely is there anything wrong with the devices we use but companies want to have the best technology on the market to compete with other companies. This goes for all sectors of technology like computers, software, televisions, DVD players, and the old VHS players to name a few.
The trail of e-waste is not a pretty one as with much of the waste we are discovering. Nearly 80% of electronic waste is sold to places like China, Nigeria, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan to be taken apart by cheap labor. People in China have been paid $8 a day to take apart electronics to save precious metals and other material to be refurbished and sold again. Electronic waste is highly toxic when taken apart and these workers breathe it in every day. Places doing this in China have been recorded as the highest rates of cancer in the world. With thousands of pieces of electronics thrown out each year, it is inevitable that these conditions will get increasingly worse.
The sad facts are that there aren’t many great ways to get rid of electronics. The truth of the matter is it all becomes obsolete to us. When are looking to e-cycle, research the companies you are about to turn over your products to. See where there connections lie and what they do with the electronics once you give them up. Make your electronics last longer by doing upgrades on the systems you have and take special care of them to insure they last longer. The longer they last, the less often you are throwing them away. Consider the number of electronics that your family needs. Does everyone in the family need a phone or can you get away with one or two? The same goes for computers, tablets, and e-readers, how many do you really need or are they a commodity item? When you refuse to buy more and you recycle responsibly, you not only are saving the impact on the environment but you could improve the quality of someone’s life too.

Industrial Waste

Industrial waste is any time of waste that is a byproduct of industry or unwanted material used during the manufacturing process. This is not hazardous waste but can still be toxic and harmful to the environment. These wastes come from businesses, manufacturing, farming, and mining. Some types of waste include paper by-products, clay, stone, organic and inorganic matter, plastic, food products, concrete, and glass. It is estimated that 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste is discarded per year. This does not include air pollution added to our atmosphere or the carbon dioxide given off from the burning of fossil fuels.

Due to the nature of the global economy, it is cheaper and easier to have resources shipped from one area to another in bulk. With this comes an unending trail of waste to follow it. The largest concern with industrial waste is clean water. Many pollutants go into the water as some industries use water as a source of energy and as a dump site for their unwanted goods. The important thing to know about all industrial waste is that it can be prevented. It may not seem like as big of an issue as the factor farming or the global plastic use but it is all linked back to this notion that everything is industrialized.

The positives or future outlook on global waste is promising as companies are beginning to see the need for waste water treatment facilities or man-made swamps to filter out contaminants. There have been promotions for on-site recycling facilities, composting, and alternative resources used that are easier to dispose of. Though this does not solve the issue of industrial waste, it certainly decreases the effects it has on the environment. The only way to reduce this waste completely is to not support industrial products, reuse what you have or buy secondhand to decrease demand for goods, and to promote the well being of the planet by advocating for waste management at industrial sites.

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