Chapter 3 - The Culture of Waste

Part 1 - Solid Waste Generation in the Developed and Developing World

US map with municipal solid waste terms such as paper, bottles, cansNearly every human activity creates some kind of waste. As countries develop economically, socially, and technologically - industrializing, urbanizing, and expanding in population - waste generation increases. The problems associated with waste affect both developed and developing countries.

Globally, we live in “throw-away” societies in which we consume packaged products that often do not last past a single use or even a year, and we discard as waste what we no longer want. This wasteful lifestyle seriously impacts the environment, public health, and produces social and economic problems. Waste disposal can have serious environmental impacts: landfills consume land space, and cause air, water and soil pollution - including the emission of greenhouse gases, while incineration results in emissions of dangerous air pollutants. Our consumptive and often wasteful behavior needs to be examined, and changed, so that we can live more sustainably.

Global population rose to 6.9 billion in 2010 and the majority of people live in developing countries. A major challenge is how to manage the ever-increasing waste generated, especially in developing countries already lacking a sufficient public service infrastructure to manage municipal waste, and where poverty and unplanned settlements lead to unmanaged waste.

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Suggested Reading

  1. US Environmental Protection Agency. National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling.
  2. Blight G, Mbande, C. Some problems of waste management in developing countries.
    Journal of Solid Waste Technology and Management. 1996; 23 (1): 19-27.
  3. Sustainability Exchange Waste Guide EU-UK.

  4. United Nations Environment Programme. Solid Waste Management
  5. Eurostat Directorate-General of the European Commission. Waste statistics. 2018.