Islands Must Generate Less Trash Or Die, Says UN.

Photo: OECS. Every year we are generating more and more garbage, but this needs to be reversed, says a new UN report.
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With municipal waste set to rise by two thirds and the cost of getting rid of it almost doubling within a generation, only a drastic reduction in the amount of waste produced will secure a liveable and affordable future. That’s what a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report says.

Titled ‘Beyond an age of waste: Turning rubbish into a resource’, UNEP’s Global Waste Management Outlook 2024 (GWMO 2024) provides the most substantial update on global waste generation and the cost of waste and its management since 2018.

The analysis uses life cycle assessments to explore what the world could gain or lose through continuing business-as-usual, adopting halfway measures, or committing fully to zero waste and circular economy societies.

According to the report, municipal solid waste generation is predicted to grow from 2.3 billion tonnes in 2023 to 3.8 billion tonnes by 2050. In 2020, the global direct cost of waste management was an estimated USD 252 billion.

However, when factoring in the hidden costs of pollution, poor health and climate change from poor waste disposal practices, the cost rises to USD 361 billion. Without urgent action on waste management, by 2050 this global annual cost could almost double to a staggering USD 640.3 billion.

“Waste generation is intrinsically tied to GDP, and many fast-growing economies are struggling under the burden of rapid waste growth.

By identifying practical steps to a more resourceful future and emphasising the pivotal role of decision-makers in the public and private sectors to move towards zero waste, this Global Waste Management Outlook can support governments seeking to prevent missed opportunities to create more sustainable societies and to secure a liveable planet for future generations,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director.

“The GWMO 2024 is a guide and call for action to improve collective efforts to support bold and transformative solutions, roll back  the adverse impacts of current waste management practices, and benefit every individual living on this planet.

These actions are instrumental to accelerating the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. As a partner and supporter of the GWMO since its inception, ISWA will ensure it is now disseminated and implemented on the ground by providing the support needed to address the challenges currently observed,” said Carlos Silva Filho, ISWA’s President.

The report’s modelling shows that getting waste under control by taking waste prevention and management measures could limit net annual costs by 2050 to USD 270.2 billion.

However, projections show that a circular economy model, where waste generation and economic growth are decoupled by adopting waste avoidance, sustainable business practices, and full waste management, could in fact lead to a full net gain of USD 108.5 billion per year.

“The findings of this report demonstrate that the world urgently needs to shift to a zero waste approach, while improving waste management to prevent significant pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and negative impacts to human health.

Pollution from waste knows no borders, so it is in everyone’s interests to commit to waste prevention and invest in waste management where it is lacking. The solutions are available and ready to be scaled up. What is needed now is strong leadership to set the direction and pace required, and to ensure no one is left behind,” said Zoë Lenkiewicz, lead author of the report.

The full recording of the online event is available HERE

Eight ways to reduce waste generation that everyone can do.

Source: United Nations, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
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