As you can see in our new report, What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050,
Poorly managed waste is contaminating the world’s oceans, clogging drains and causing flooding, transmitting diseases, increasing respiratory problems from burning, harming animals that consume waste unknowingly, and affecting economic development such as through tourism.
Without urgent action, these issues will only get worse. Here’s what everyone should know.
First, rapid urbanization, population growth, and economic development will push global waste generation to increase by 70% over the next 30 years.
East Asia generates about one quarter of the world’s waste, while waste generation is growing the fastest in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
While high-income countries account only for 16% of the global population, they generate over one-third of the world’s waste.
[To learn more about global trends and data on waste, visit www.worldbank.org/what-a-waste]
Second, in low-income countries, over 90% of waste is mismanaged – it is either openly dumped or burned.
Upper-middle and high-income countries provide nearly universal waste collection. In high-income countries, more than one-third of waste is recovered through recycling and composting.
Third, plastics are a profoundly difficult and complex problem.
We could make about 24 trillion plastic bottles out of it. Their water volume could fill up 4.8 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
Even when plastic waste is collected, many countries don’t have the capacity to process the waste, leading to dumping or mismanagement of it.
Waste is growing, but so, too, is the global momentum to find solutions to stem the tide and make waste management more sustainable.
Many solutions already exist. For example,
The World Bank is increasingly working with developing countries worldwide to invest in sustainable waste management and address challenges related to infrastructure, governance, financing, and capacity.
Solid waste data and planning are also part of the solution. It is important to understand how much and what types of waste are generated – and where. This can help governments create more effective waste management policies and plans for the local context.
Waste management can be costly – it may be the single highest budget item for many local governments. However,
Uncollected waste and poorly disposed waste have significant health and environmental impacts. The cost of addressing these impacts is many times higher than the cost of developing and operating simple, adequate waste management systems.
In an era of rapid urbanization and population growth, solid waste management is a critical piece for sustainable, healthy, and inclusive cities and communities. However, it is often put on the back burner when it comes to urban development.
If no action is taken, we’ll push ourselves and our children to live in a world with more waste and overwhelming pollution. Lives, livelihoods, and the environment would pay an even higher price than they are already.
We already know what needs to be done to reverse that trend. We just need all levels of society to take urgent action.
- Download the “What a Waste 2.0” report
- Visit the “What a Waste 2.0” database
- Press release: Global Waste to Grow by 70 Percent by 2050 Unless Urgent Action is Taken: World Bank Report
- Immersive story: What a Waste: An Updated Look into the Future of Solid Waste Management
- Infographic: What a Waste 2.0
- Brief: Solid Waste Management
- Slideshow: Five ways cities can curb plastic waste
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