mohieldin25_Citizen of the PlanetEducation ImagesUIG via Getty Images_plastic in ocean Citizen of the Planet/Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

New Frontiers for Waste Management

Globally, annual waste generation is set to increase by as much as 70% by 2050, even as the world population increases by less than half that. International institutions need to help countries – especially lower-income countries – plan and develop state-of-the-art waste-management systems, including by providing needed financing.

WASHINGTON, DC – The world is mired in a serious, if underreported, crisis. Every year, humans generate about two billion tons of household waste, and much more industrial, hazardous, electronic, medical, and construction waste, much of which is disposed of inadequately. And, as usual, the consequences – environmental destruction, damage to health, and impeded development – are disproportionately affecting the world’s poor.

As it stands, at least one-third of all global waste is openly dumped or burned. In low-income countries, which may already spend as much of 20% of their municipal budgets on waste management, that figure can rise as high as 93%.

The damage to human health and the environment is already profound. For example, each year, the world generates 242 million tons of plastic, which comprises as much as 90% of ocean debris, damaging the marine ecosystem and ending up in our own bodies. According to Ocean Conservancy, plastic has been found in every species of sea turtle and more than 25% of fish sampled from seafood markets around the world.

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