Humans have a waste management problem. Most global waste is either burned or piled up in landfills, streams, and eventually oceans. Land-disposed trash is a serious climate issue that drives global warming. It also causes displacement, crime, and economic burdens. Food waste alone releases 8% of global greenhouse emissions. Globally, one-third of all food produced ends up in the trash.
Here are seven facts about trash.
1. Increasingly massive landfills are driving people in Indonesia from their homes.
In Indonesia, 7,000 tons of trash arrives daily at a landfill over 200 football fields wide and 15 stories high. This landfill is surrounded by villages with about 20,000 residents. Some residents are being pushed from their homes by the government, which wants to expand the dump.
2. Less than 20% of global waste is recycled each year and rich countries often export recyclables to poorer nations.
A 2018 estimate says the US recycles only 8.7% of its plastic waste. One-third of recyclables in the US are shipped abroad.
China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, Vietnam, and Turkey are all major waste importers. They are under-equipped to handle the waste properly, so they often mismanage or incinerate the recyclables. In 2019 China declared that it would no longer accept plastic waste from overseas.
3. The COVID-19 pandemic has made our waste and recycling problem worse.
Recycling rates fell across Europe, Asia, and the US during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic generated over 8 million tons of plastic waste around the world. Over 25,000 tons of that waste entered the ocean.
4. Each year around 92 million metric tons of textile waste is generated around the world.
An estimated 59,000 metric tons of clothing is sent to Chile,. Resellers may buy up stock. Most of it, however, ends up as waste in the desert.
Every year, Americans throw out 12.8 million tons of textiles. Globally, the fashion sector accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Textile production releases 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases each year.
5. Our trash pile-ups affect animal behavior.
Human waste has a history of influencing animal behavior. For example, an abundance of food waste in landfills in Portugal led white storks to change their migration patterns. In Argentina, waste produced from increased fishery activity contributed to a significant growth in gull populations. The gulls then began attacking whales.
6. There’s more than one ocean garbage patch around the world.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between California and Hawaii, is a collection of floating trash covering an area three times the size of France. Garbage patches have also formed in the South Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean.
7. The plastic waste recycling industry has an underbelly of crime.
The export of plastic waste has led to reports of smuggling, illegal disposal methods, money laundering, corruption, and in some cases, allegations of human trafficking.
Source: 7 Genuinely Shocking Facts About Our Global Waste Problem
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