According to the World Bank, by 2050, humanity will leave behind 70% more municipal solid waste (MSW) than in 2016. So, of course, the waste management market is growing, but so is the attention to waste management methods and approaches to this problem.
Today, one inhabitant of the Earth accounts for 0.74 kg of garbage per day. The indicator largely depends on the development and income level in the country and varies from 0.11 to 4.54 kg per day per person. The USA, Canada, and the EU make up only 16% of the world’s population, producing 34% of the world’s waste. Waste generation is expected to increase in the future due to increased production in poor and developing countries.
It is estimated that 93% of waste is mismanaged in low-income countries and 2% in high-income countries. On average, in the world, only 13.5% of waste is recycled, and 5.5% is composted. Most of the waste generated worldwide is not recycled but thrown away or openly burned.
Today, each country has its own approach to waste management, which depends on a number of factors: economic system, income, area, population, infrastructure, etc. Management is not always only about collection and disposal or recycling but also often contributes to smaller volumes of waste generation since a large stream of new waste is a huge problem.
In Europe, one of the leaders in waste disposal is Sweden – the country recycles 99% of household waste and even buys garbage abroad. In Sweden, both residents and businesses are required by law to sort waste. One of the main achievements is that the country provides heating by recycling waste. About 66% of waste is disposed of by Germany, 58% by Austria, and 54% by Slovenia and Belgium.
In Asia, the leaders are countries with high population density and land scarcity, with no place for garbage dumps and incinerators. These are Japan, Singapore, and China. For example, in China (by the way, one of the largest producers of garbage on the planet) until 2009, there was no separate collection system. But the Chinese were clearly shown the benefits of sorted garbage, and in many courtyards of Beijing, special units for food waste were installed, which were collected in composters, and the plants in the yard were moistened with recycled garbage.
An interesting fact is that the average American more often turns over garbage for recycling than goes to the polls. In the US, the practice of sorting waste has been around for quite some time: by 2000, 32% of US household waste was recycled, and 7% was incinerated. Such results were achieved thanks to waste sorting. At the same time, back in the early 1990s, opinion polls indicated that most Americans considered separate waste collection “incompatible with the American mentality.” However, this trend was reversed thanks to government programs promoting separate collections and fines for non-compliance with the rules. At the same time, in the 1990s and early 2000s, 9,700 waste collection programs for recycling were launched, and 3,800 sorting and recycling plants were built.
The federal government is constantly improving the waste collection system, consistently reducing the amount of landfilled waste. Since the 1990s, the federal program “RRR – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” has been operating in the United States. According to the program, by the end of 2020, the country plans to achieve recycling of 20 million tons of garbage per year and significantly reduce the number of landfills.
Existing landfills in the United States are trying to use for the production of methane. Landfill gas collection and use are particularly popular on the West Coast (California) and the Midwest (Alabama, South Dakota). In the body of the landfill map, special shafts are drilled through which the gas is pumped out and supplied for processing. The resulting gas is used to heat the surrounding areas and generate electricity and motor fuel.
In addition to the fact that the government stimulates the recycling system in every possible way, large companies are also interested in eco-activism. Some of them do it to be “in trend,” and some really care about the planet’s future. Some companies have gone further and made clothes and shoes from recycled materials that were garbage.
But no matter what each company is guided by, the result is essential – proper waste processing significantly reduces the scale of environmental problems. In addition, it brings much more benefits than the usual burning of all garbage.