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Dhruvika writes on sustainable practices in various sectors for BuzzOnEarth. Get in touch with her at dhruvika@buzzonearth.com. Sometimes she reads her emails too.

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World Bank released a report on waste management and according to the data, things are not looking very pretty at the moment or in the long stretch. It claimed that the global waste production will increase by 70% by 2050 if the conditions do not change.

The 200-page plus report named “What a Waste 2.0” is a deep and extensive study of waste management around the globe and takes in data and research done through multiple years. The report is based on the data from 2012 to 2017, the first report came out in 2012. The information is sourced from 217 countries and 367 cities and consists of hordes of case studies and their deep analysis.

The world produces 2.01 billion metric tons of municipal solid waste (MSW). Only 13.5% of it gets recycled and 5.5% is composted. An estimated 40% of the waste generated in the world is mismanaged and openly dumped or burned. If the situation persists, then we’ll end up with 3.4 billion metric tons by the end of 2050.

90% of the solid waste is shipped to low-income countries. The poor and most vulnerable are the ones most affected by this.

“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,” said Sameh Wahba, World Bank Director for Urban and Territorial Development, Disaster Risk Management and Resilience.

Greenhouse gases are another major side effect of waste production. Around 5% of global emissions are generated from solid waste management.

“Solid waste management is everyone’s business. Ensuring effective and proper solid waste management is critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice. “Left unmanaged, dumped or burned, waste harms human health, hurts the environment and climate, and hinders economic growth in poor and rich countries alike.”

Plastic waste comes into a category of its own. The 90% of the marine debris consists of plastic and amounting to the toxicity of the oceans. In 2016, just one year, the world produced 242 tonnes of plastic waste which is estimated to be equal to the weight of 3.4 million adult blue whales. That’s some ‘heavy’ calculations!

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Image- World Bank

Lower-middle-income countries like the nations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the fastest growing regions, are expected to grow in population as well as develop economically. The total waste produced in this area is also going to increase and is expected to triple by 2050. That would amount to 35% of the world’s waste. The waste generation in the Middle East and North Africa region is also expected to double by 2050.

The recycling situation is also debatable. High-income countries are more likely to recover one-third of their waste through recycling and composting but low-income countries only recycle 4% of the waste.

“Environmentally sound waste management touches so many critical aspects of development,” said Silpa Kaza, World Bank Urban Development Specialist and lead author of the What a Waste 2.0 report. “Yet, solid waste management is often an overlooked issue when it comes to planning sustainable, healthy, and inclusive cities and communities. Governments must take urgent action to address waste management for their people and the planet.”

Sustainability is a much-needed aspect of waste management but is largely ignored. Factors like high cost and efforts involved in handling waste sustainably, often discourage society. But the study showed that not only it is ethically right but also economically justified.

If waste is treated sustainably, there would be a significant reduction in the health of citizens and the environment. The cost of addressing the impacts of waste mismanagement is multiple times than that of developing and executing waste management systems. These systems will also help in keeping carbon footprint in check and bring down the calamities caused by climate change which costs us the loss of lives, resources, and money.

The report is scary to look at but is focussed to bring urgency in the deploying the ideas and plans to manage the waste sustainably. So, let’s not get wasted away and bring in some action.

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