The world has a well-documented problem with trash – and we’re rapidly running out of places to put it. But despite the fact that more and more of us are aware of the issues, our addiction to convenience and disposable living has us churning out garbage faster than ever.
We take a brief look at the problem and at what’s being done to solve it, both in South Africa and in other places around the globe.
How Big Is the Problem?
There’s no doubt that the problem is big – and getting bigger. A recent World Bank report stated that the total amount of municipal solid waste – the type produced in densely populated urban areas – is growing even faster than urbanisation is occurring. According to the report, it is likely to almost double by 2025, going from 1.3 billion tons per year to 2.2 billion.
By 2100, scientists predict that it will have tripled – and may keep rising after that. And this doesn’t just mean overflowing landfills or incinerators churning out toxic chemicals: a study published earlier this year revealed that eight million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year (the equivalent of five plastic bags for every foot of coastline around the globe).
Even nations with a sophisticated trash collection system, such as the United States, are guilty of bombarding the ocean with serious amounts of plastic – with disastrous consequences for delicate marine ecosystems. What’s more, with the plethora of current concerns about climate change, the subject is rarely given any media attention, and researchers must often fight to have their voices heard.
What’s the Solution?
South Africa faces considerable challenges when it comes to tackling the waste management problem – not least the fact that only 60% of its residents enjoy the luxury of curbside waste disposal. Thanks to valuable support from the South African Climate Innovation Centre, however, pioneering firms like Holystic Approach and Eco-Match are making it easier for effective recycling to take place – at both a consumer and an industrial level.
Elsewhere, local groups of business entrepreneurs like the Hout Bay Recycling Co-op – who sort, weigh and sell reusable materials – have carved out useful roles for themselves within the government’s push for a greener economy. As well as helping to make the country greener, the Co-op scheme has enabled many of its members to lift themselves out of poverty and create better lives for their families.
South Africa isn’t the only part of the world taking action. Alinta Energy just blogged about the new electric refuse vehicles (ERVs) improving life in the City of Chicago – not only are they super quiet, they also have impressive green credentials, with each truck offsetting around 21 tons of carbon dioxide each year. And on the waters, the innovative Ocean Cleanup Project is working on the first large-scale method to clear the world’s seas and oceans of harmful plastic.
But while these major schemes and innovations are essential for changing things on a global level, let’s not forget that our personal contributions are highly important too. Why not start today – rethinkrecycling.com has some great ways to reduce your personal waste and become more trash-aware.
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