Waste is defined as any unwanted or unusable material. As per this definition, waste is material, that is not wanted or used by the user. Eventually, this same material can be wanted or used by another user. However, out of the 1,9 billion tones/year we produce globally, less than 20% is currently recycled or recovered…
According to the Waste Atlas, the current global Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation is estimated to 1.9 billion tonnes/year with almost the 30% of it to remain uncollected. As for the collected MSW, 70% is led to landfills and dumpsites, 19% is recycled or recovered and 11% is led to energy recovery facilities. The organic content disposed at landfill is responsible for the emission of methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, and therefore contributes negatively to the climate change.
Waste production is increasing rapidly, as urbanization and consumption pattern grow. In 2002, the World Bank estimated that there were 2.9 billion urban residents who generated about 0.64 kg of MSW per person per day (0.68 billion tonnes per year). In 2012, it estimated that these amounts have increased to about 3 billion residents generating 1.2 kg per person per day (1.3 billion tonnes per year). Today, we have reached 1, 9 billion tones/year. By 2025 the urban population will likely increase to 4.3 billion urban residents generating about 1.42 kg/capita/day of municipal solid waste, which will be equivalent 2.2 billion tonnes per year). More information in the What a Waste World Bank report.
As the waste production grows, the number of people that lacks access to the most elementary Waste Management services grows too. Today, is estimated to at least 3.5 billion. If we continue with a Business as Usual practice, the situation seems to worsen significantly, with forecasts to estimate that the population that will have no access to WM services in 2050 will be around 5.6 billion.
This is why it is estimated that solid waste management costs will increase from today’s annual USD 205,4 billion to about USD 375,5 billion in 2025. Costs increase will be most severe in low income countries (more than 5-fold increases) and lower-middle income countries (more than 4-fold increases).
Against this backdrop, the so called 3R for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling have environmental, economic and social advantages.
Ecological advantages associated with reduction, reuse and recycling include a reduction in the accumulation of waste and associated problems related to pollution and public health. In addition, recycling saves natural resources by reducing the production of new materials by instead using recycled materials.
Also, recycling provides a better quality of life for people through improving the environment, but also generates jobs in the waste collection, separation and processing sector. Recycling allows to use material considered as waste by some users but seen as material by other users : this is why recycling is a key element of the so called “circular economy” and “green growth” :it generates economic activities with positive environmental and social impactss. Therefore, it is truly a key towards the sustainable development we need for our planet.