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'Global waste challenge as big as climate change'

Annual global waste is set to rise from 1.3 billion tonnes to 2.2bn tonnes by 2025, posing challenges on a scale with climate change, according to a new report.

The World Bank predicts a big rise in global municipal solid waste from the current 1.2kg per person per day to 1.4kg in 2025.

The report, What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management, estimates the annual cost of solid waste management will rise from $205bn (£132bn) today to $375bn (£243bn).

Rachel Kyte, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank, said waste management was becoming in more urgent issue, especially in rapidly developing cities in low income countries.

She said: “The findings of this report are sobering, but they also offer hope that once the extent of this issue is recognized, local and national leaders, as well as the international community, will mobilize to put in place programs to reduce, reuse, recycle, or recover as much waste as possible before burning it (and recovering the energy) or otherwise disposing of it. Measuring the extent of the problem is a critical first step to resolving it.”

The report sets out several policy recommendations including:

  • Public education to inform people about their options to reduce waste generation and increase recycling and composting
  • Pricing mechanisms (such as product charges) to stimulate consumer behaviour to reduce waste generation and increase recycling
  • User charges tied to the quantity of waste disposed of, with (for example) consumers separating recyclables paying a lower fee for waste disposa
  • Preferential procurement policies and pricing to stimulate demand for products made with recycled post-consumer waste

Dan Hoornweg, lead urban specialist in the finance, economics, and urban development department of the World Bank and co-author of the report said that while the report’s findings were not surprising it reinforced a “relatively silent problem that is growing daily”.

“The challenges surrounding municipal solid waste are going to be enormous, on a scale of, if not greater than, the challenges we are currently experiencing with climate change. This report should be seen as a giant wake-up call to policy makers everywhere,” he said.

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