We all know that trash is an eyesore, but knowing the facts about waste can inspire ourselves and others to change our behaviour and advocate for societal transformation.
Here’s some hard data to better understand the scale of the issue and start your thinking on how you could create change in your life, your neighbourhood and even the world.
How much trash do we create?
Humankind currently produces two billion tonnes of waste per year between 7.6 billion people (2016). That’s the equivalent of more than 4,000 times the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
Waste is getting worse
By 2050, the world is expected to increase waste generation by 70% (World Bank Group). If those alive today don’t demand change, global waste will continue to grow exponentially.
When it comes to waste generation, we are not all equal
In 2019, the US represents 4% of the global population but generates 12% of global municipal waste, while the 18% of the global population leaving in India generates the same proportion of waste.
The age of the internet has brought new problems in electronic waste, such as PCs, laptops, mobile phones. In 2016, 44.7million metric tons of e-waste were generated. This is an equivalent of almost 4,500 Eiffel towers.
Only 20% of electronic waste is properly recycled (UNEP). When improperly disposed of, e-waste produces dangerous chemicals which contaminate soil and groundwater, putting biodiversity, food and water sources at risk of contamination.
Trouble under water
Plastic already seems omnipresent near the coasts and in the sea. And, while today there is “only” a ratio of 1 ton of plastic for 5 tons of fish, the ratio should reach 1 ton of plastic for 3 tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish.
While 11% of the world’s population are undernourished, 1/3 of the food produced annually for human consumption gets lost or wasted including through leftover meals, ends of vegetables and expired food (FAO). 28% of the world’s agricultural area is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted (2007, FAO). This means millions of liters of water are wasted in farming and electricity is lost to harvesting and processing the food.
Today, we produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. That’s nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population.
Half of all plastic manufactured becomes trash in less than a year. And, a significant part of this plastic production finishes in the nature or eventually our plates. Every week we eat 5 grams of plastic, equating to eating a credit card…
Next to landfill or incineration, recycling is usually the best option. Yet, just a minor proportion of recyclable waste is actually recycled. For example, only 20 % of the plastic (2015) and 35% of the glass (2018) is recycled.
People throw out and replace their clothing every day. 7,500 liters of water are used to produce a single pair of jeans – this is how much water the average person drinks over 7 years (UN News).
Rubbish collection and human health
At least 2 billion people around the world do not have their rubbish collected. 33% of waste generation is not managed in an environmentally safe manner. This waste mismanagement leads to various diseases killing up to a million of people every year.
What can you do about it?
It’s clear that trash doesn’t just look bad, it links into many other environmental issues like the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Our consumption and treatment of waste reveals how short sighted we can be about our effect on the planet.
Now that you know more about the trash and its consequences, we hope you’re inspired to keep thinking about how you can be part of change.
These are global problems, but how does your region stack up? Try searching these types of waste in your own neighbourhood, area or country to find out more and maybe inspire your own Trash Hack!
Or you can have a look at the other blog posts to get some ideas of new habits to implement in your daily life to reduce your trash and some tips to share your experience and encourage your entourage to take the first step.