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article imageU.S. at top of the garbage pile in global waste crisis

By Karen Graham     Jul 3, 2019 in World
The US produces far more garbage and recycles far less of it than other developed countries, according to a new analysis by the global risk consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft.
The world produces over two billion tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) every year, enough to fill over 800,000 Olympic sized swimming pools. The United States, with 4.0 percent of the world's population, generates 12 percent of the global MSW, or approximately 239 million tons of garbage.
In comparison, China and India make up more than 36 percent of the world’s population, yet the two countries generate just 27 percent of that waste. The U.S. output is three times that of their Chinese counterparts and seven times more than people living in Ethiopia.
These startling revelations come from a new analysis by the global risk consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft. The report also shows us the world faces an ever-growing waste crisis, driven largely by plastics piling up in developing countries and the oceans.
Maplecroft has developed two new indices - waste management and recycling. The company used publically-available data, as well as academic research to create a global picture of how countries are handling the mounting waste crisis, particularly plastics.
Their waste generation index (WGI) shows per capita rates of municipal solid waste, plastic, food and hazardous materials. Municipal solid waste (MSW) is all the rubbish collected from homes, businesses and institutions.
Using the indices and other data, Maplecroft estimates the US produces about 234 pounds (106.2 kilograms) of plastic waste per person per year.
Verisk Maplecroft
A throw-away society
America’s thirst for consumption is not matched by an appetite for recycling. The data identifies the country as the world’s top producer of waste and one of the worst of any industrialized nation for managing its trash. There is a widening gulf between what we produce and what we recycle, and it is creating profound challenges for society.
The U.S. only recycles 35 percent of its municipal waste, as compared to Germany, which recycles 68 percent of its waste. “The US is the only developed nation whose waste generation outstrips its ability to recycle, underscoring a shortage of political will and investment in infrastructure,” the firm said.
Will Nichols, the firm’s head of environment, said the US had better recycling abilities than much of the world, “but the sheer amount of waste that is being generated is not being dealt with as well."
With the world’s attention firmly fixed on the problem of waste, we expect governments to act, with businesses footing the bill,” said Verisk Senior Environmental Analyst Niall Smith, according to CTV News Canada. “Beyond the potential financial impacts, the reputational risks for business are high if they ignore intensifying interest in the issue from consumers and investors.”
More about waste crisis, United States, Canada, Waste Generation Index, Recycling
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