The US has found itself on the top of the list on global waste producers. The whole world produces over two billion tonnes of municipal solid waste every year, which is enough to fill over 800,000 Olympic sized swimming pools. The US produces three times the global average of waste, which includes plastic and food, while only re-using 35% of the waste. Germany, on the other hand, is the most efficient, recycling 68% of materials.
These findings were developed by Verisk Maplecroft, a research firm specialising in global risk. The information they use is publicly available, along with academic research to get a full grasp on how countries have been operating in recent times when waste production is at an all-time high. Globally, the world produces about 2.1bn tonnes of waste every year, while only 16% is recycled, with 46% being disposed unsustainably. China and India, whom account for over 36% of the global population, account for 27% of the waste.
European countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Germany find themselves among the top waste producers as well. The UK is 14th in the waste index, generating 482kg of household waste per person every year.
The US is the only developed nation with waste generation that outstrips its ability to recycle. “Where the US is doing badly is the relationship between what it generates and its capacity to recycle,” said Niall Smith, one of the authors of the report. “And relative to it’s high income peers, that’s where it is performing poorly.”
“I think you see in survey after survey that infrastructure in the US just isn’t there to provide the recycling option,” said Will Nichols, head of environmental research at Verisk Maplecroft. “A lot of US waste – now that it can’t get shipped to China – is just getting burnt, there just isn’t the investment in place in infrastructure to deal with this problem.”
The banning of waste imports in China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia is changing the global dynamic. There have been tensions between the government of the Philippines which sent back 69 shipping containers containing waste to Canada.