What a Waste 2.0

As highlighted in this report, the world is currently on a trajectory where waste generation is projected to exceed population growth by more than double by the year 2050. Despite witnessing advancements and innovations in solid waste management globally, it remains a complex issue that demands urgent action.

Solid waste management impacts everyone, but it disproportionately affects society’s most vulnerable individuals. They bear the brunt of poorly managed waste, facing risks such as landslides from waste dumps, working in hazardous waste-picking conditions, and suffering severe health consequences.

Furthermore, the environment pays a significant price, with plastic waste, for instance, posing a grave threat to our oceans. In 2016 alone, the world generated 242 million tonnes of plastic waste, constituting 12 percent of all municipal solid waste. Despite this, plastic consumption continues to rise, and many cities and countries are developing without adequate waste management systems to handle the evolving waste composition.

Additionally, solid waste management contributes substantially to greenhouse gas emissions, with an estimated 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions generated in 2016—approximately 5 percent of global emissions. Without improvements, these emissions are projected to rise to 2.6 billion tonnes by 2050. Enhancing waste management is thus crucial for fulfilling commitments made under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions.

Solid waste management is an often overlooked yet critical component of planning sustainable, healthy, and inclusive cities and communities. However, it can also be a significant financial burden for many local administrations. Municipalities in low-income countries, for instance, spend approximately 20 percent of their budgets on waste management, yet over 90 percent of waste remains openly dumped or burned.

As cities and countries continue to grow rapidly, there is an urgent need for effective waste management systems and sustainable financing mechanisms to ensure the health and cleanliness of communities.

This report underscores the imperative for cities and countries to adopt holistic planning approaches and improve resource management practices. It builds upon previous research and emphasizes the pressing need for solutions to address the overwhelming cost and challenges associated with waste management.

Using the insights and data provided in this report, stakeholders are encouraged to proactively integrate waste management into their frameworks for economic growth and innovation. It is the collective responsibility of citizens, governments, businesses, cities, and countries to work towards creating a healthy, inclusive, and sustainable world.

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