This is what the world’s waste does to people in poorer countries

waste 2019

(Hermes Riverah, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: David Knowles, Digital Media Specialist, World Economic Forum


It’s contaminating our oceans. It’s clogging our drains and causing flooding. It’s transmitting diseases, causing respiratory infections, and harming animals. Welcome to the global trash heap.

Our cities generate more than 2 billion tonnes of waste every year, but one-quarter of the world’s population doesn’t have access to a proper waste collection system. In low-income countries all but a small amount of solid waste is burned or dumped.

Plastic

What is the World Economic Forum doing about ending plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The World Economic Forum has played a crucial role in connecting TerraCycle, a global waste management and recycling company, with logistics giant UPS and some of the world’s leading retailers and consumer goods companies (including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Carrefour, Tesco, Mondelēz, PepsiCo, Danone, Mars, Nestlé and Unilever) to develop and pilot a revolutionary zero-waste e-commerce system called Loop.

Loop promotes responsible consumption and eliminates waste by introducing a new way for consumers to purchase, enjoy and recycle their favorite products. Instead of relying on single-use packaging, it delivers products to consumers’ doorsteps in durable packaging that is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused, sometimes more than 100 times.

The Loop Model.

The Loop Model.

The Forum is helping the Loop Alliance bring the Loop model to cities around the world. Read more in our Impact Story.

Partner with us and join the global mission to end plastic pollution.

And it is these poorer countries that are shouldering much of the burden of our global waste habit. Between 400,000 and 1 million people die each year in developing countries because of diseases caused by mismanaged waste, estimates poverty charity Tearfund.

As countries become more prosperous, their trash cans become increasingly full. Rapid urbanisation and population growth adds to the problem, making collection increasingly problematic and sites for treatment harder to locate. For many local administrations, particularly in poorer settings, waste management can be the single biggest expenditure.

Waste is piling up fastest in the countries least able to deal with it. Sub-Saharan African countries’ overall waste generation is currently projected to triple by 2050.

Image: The World Bank

The plastic bag problem

Single-use plastic is a particular issue. Much of it ends up littering the land and oceans, harming wildlife and damaging the financial welfare of farmers and fishers. Up to one-third of cattle and half of the goat population in developing countries have consumed significant amounts of plastic, which can lead to bloating and death by starvation.

Plastic is also finding its way into coral reefs and other natural beauty spots, harming the ecosystem and becoming an eyesore that deters the tourists many poorer nations rely on.

 

Many developed countries export their post-consumer plastic waste – which makes up over one-tenth of what we throw out – passing on the problem to typically poorer countries to deal with.

In May 2019, almost every country in the world signed up to a UN pact to reduce the export of hard-to-recycle plastics. There have also been efforts from companies themselves to cut back.

The plastics problem has become so pressing that unless action is taken, global plastic production is projected to double over the next 10 to 15 years.

Image: National Geographic

Picking up the trash

In many places without formal waste collection systems, waste pickers play an important role sorting through dumps to source reusable materials for resale.

Waste picking provides employment and income for a small but significant number of the world’s urban population. They can make up a large proportion of the informal waste collection system – in Lusaka, Zambia, for example it’s up to one-third. But they are often excluded from frameworks for waste management, even through their involvement can provide an income for some of the poorest people in society as well as reducing costs for municipalities.

But this is dangerous and unhealthy work. Not only do the dumps harbour disease as they are a breeding ground for mosquitoes and rats, but smashing and burning waste to get at materials releases dangerous gases and chemicals.

Agbogbloshie in Ghana is home to the world’s largest e-dump. Computers, TVs, fridges and other electrical goods from around the world find their way here – often illegally. Many of the people working on the site suffer nausea, headaches, burns and other injuries, while others have died of cancer in their 20s.

Looking to the future

So what can be done? One solution to the mounting waste and plastic problem could be to create a circular economy.

A system aimed at minimising waste and making the most of what we’ve got could transform how resources are managed, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

By changing the way the world thinks about waste, and aiming to adjust the way we design and make things, a circular economy could slash CO2 emissions, cut healthcare costs, and dramatically reduce materials that are dumped or incinerated as waste.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Here’s how tech can help governments fight corruption

Khashoggi trial in Saudi Arabia falls short of independent, international probe needed: UN rights chief

Mobile technology saving lives: Changing healthcare systems with simple technology solutions

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Venezuela-Colombia baby breakthrough, Italy piles on rescue boat pressure, States must combat hate, Kashmir rights latest and a musical plea to combat CAR hunger

Climate change will force us to redefine economic growth

This AI can predict your personality just by looking at your eyes

Northern Ireland: Parliament wants to secure post-Brexit regional funding

UN launches Facebook Messenger-powered bot to take on climate change

Keeping cool in the face of climate change

‘Favour dialogue’ over violence, UN chief urges all parties following clashes in Mali’s capital

Building climate resilience and peace, go hand in hand for Africa’s Sahel – UN forum

Being blinded by labels stops social change. Art helps us see a better future

Here’s why upskilling is crucial to drive the post-COVID recovery

UN, African Union make significant joint commitment to global health

Protecting refugees in Europe: UNHCR calls for a ‘year of change’

Yemen: UN envoy asks Security Council for more support ‘to move back’ to the negotiating table

Is the EU denying its social character favouring a banking conglomerate?

UN rights chief Bachelet appeals for dialogue in Sudan amid reports ‘70 killed’ in demonstrations

How the US should react to the pandemic, according to Bill Gates

One million facing food shortages, nutrition crisis after Mozambique cyclones: UNICEF

4 ways Africa can prepare its youth for the digital economy

UN agencies launch emergency plan for millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants

Do doctors need to know their patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity?

The next 48 hours may change the European Union

The UK referendum has already damaged Europe: even a ‘remain’ result is not without cost to Britain and the EU

Mali facing ‘alarming’ rise in rights violations, warns UN expert

A European Discovers China: 3 First Impressions

5 things to know about African migration

MWC 2016 LIVE: GTI shifts to phase two – 5G – after hitting milestones

If we want to solve climate change, water governance is our blueprint

Minsk “ceasefire” leaves more doubts than safety, with EU already planning steps further

Trade: First year of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement shows growth in EU exports

Electronic Cigarettes: Are they really as safe as we think?

UN and African Union in ‘common battle’ for development and climate change financing

Parallel downfalls of Merkel and Deutsche Bank threaten Germany and Europe

For video game addiction, now read official ‘gaming disorder’: World Health Organization

A new proposal breaks the stalemate over the Banking Union

To Brexit, or not to Brexit…rather not: 10 Downing Street, London

AI can be a game-changer for the world’s forests. Here’s how

What young people can teach world leaders about mental health in 2020

How can you or your organization support the Hour of Pride initiative?

Why do humanitarian crises disproportionately affect women?

Russia and the West to partition Ukraine?

Uzbekistan wins its long fight against malaria, as global rates continue to rise

Clean air is good for business

These are the world’s 20 most dynamic cities

Making the most of the Sustainable Development Goal 3: its overlooked role in medical education

Capital transaction tax on Ecofin table

International Women’s Day 2019: more equality, but change is too slow

An all-out fight for the EU budget

World Digital Media Awards winners announced at WNMC.19 in Glasgow, in association with The European Sting

Millennials (and Gen X) – Here are the steps you should take to secure your financial future

Forget GDP – for the 21st century we need a modern growth measure

David Attenborough’s worried about this ocean threat – and it’s not plastic

Is this the way to finally beat corruption?

80 adolescents a day will still die of AIDS by 2030, despite slowdown in epidemic

UN ceasefire monitoring chief tours Yemeni port of Hudaydah

DR Congo elections: ‘historic opportunity’ for ‘peaceful transfer of power’ says Security Council

Consumers’ rights against defective digital content agreed by EU lawmakers

Parliament mobilised to channel EU funds to those affected by Coronavirus pandemic

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s