A recent study from Verisk Maplecroft – a research company that focuses on global risk – has revealed that per each person of the population, the United States’ waste production is three times higher than the global average, and only 35 percent of solid waste from America is being recycled.
Verisk Maplecroft utilized publicly available data and academic research to form a worldwide scope of how countries are managing in a time when the planet is experiencing a rapidly growing hardship, with plastic being one of the biggest contributors to the problem.
The global risk assessment firm has created two indices relating to waste production and recycling. The waste generation index displays rates of municipal solid waste, plastic waste, food waste, and hazardous materials for each person. Municipal solid waste is garbage that is gathered by local officials from residential and commercial areas. Globally, over two billion metric tons of this type of waste is generated annually, but only 16 percent is recycled, and 46 percent is discarded in an unsustainable fashion.
With India and China forming more than 36 percent of the world’s population, their combined waste production comes to 27 percent. United States inhabitants generate almost 800kg (1763 pounds) of waste per person, which is around 12 percent of the total worldwide. However, their waste production is three times more than the Chinese, and seven times more than Ethiopians.
Germany was the most efficient in waste management, recycling 68 percent of their materials, while the United Kingdom ranked 14th, generating 482kg (1060 pounds) of home waste per person annually. America is the only developed country that has waste production outweighing their recycling capabilities.
Why is the US behind in this department?
“Where the US is doing badly is the relationship between what it generates and its capacity to recycle,” said one author of the report, Niall Smith. “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 the head of environmental research at Verisk Mapelcroft, Will Nichols. “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.”
“(Asian countries) don’t want to be the world’s dumping ground anymore,” added Nichols. “There’s a growing middle class who are not happy with levels of pollution and China – because of its political situation – has the policy levers to address these issues more quickly than others.”