Projections indicate that our rate of trash production will keep rising past 2100.
A recent World Bank report projected that the amount of solid waste generated globally will nearly double by the year 2025, going from 3.5 million tons to 6 million tons per day. But the truly concerning part is that these figures will only keep growing for the foreseeable future. We likely won’t hit peak garbage—the moment when our global trash production hits its highest rate, then levels off—until sometime after the year 2100, the projection indicates, when we produce 11 million tons of trash per day.
Why does this matter? Because much of this waste isn’t handled properly: Millions of plastic fragments are flooding the world’s oceans and disrupting marine ecosystems and food waste driving hundreds of miles to landfills where it renders itself useless, is a useless waste of time and money.
Creating policies that give incentive to people to produce less waste could be a way of tackling the problem. In many Japanese municipalities, trash must be disposed in clear bags (to publicly show who isn’t bothering to recycle) and recyclables are routinely sorted into dozens of categories, policies driven by the limited amount of space for landfills in the small country.
Very small and simple changes in the way you live can have dramatic effects on how much waste you generate. You, as a consumer, have considerable power to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by choosing to buy products that use less packaging or are packaged in recyclable materials.
It is also worth remembering that although recycling is better than disposing of it in the normal trash, a lot of energy is consumed for both the recycling process and the transportation of the waste to and from its final destination. Any steps you make that reduce or eliminate the use of an item you would normally recycle or throw away will have a significant positive impact on the environment. Finding on-site solutions for food waste disposal and choosing products that are reusable and long lasting instead of single-use disposable products will save a lot of waste and also save money and the environment over the long term.
Garbage might seem like a passé environmental issue, but landfills will not be able to contain this growing amount of waste in a sustainable manner. Tripling our global rate of garbage production is a particularly bad idea.
Municipal solid waste management is the most important service a city provides, measuring the extent of the problem is a critical first step to resolving it.