Generation of massive consumption and waste

On timetable is confrontment with the truth. Answer to yourself how many things you have in your life that you actual do not use neither need. Furthermore how much did you so far give or throw away. With capitalism and our way of living, we are creating urgent need for more and more.

Welcome to consumer society wheremore than 7 billion people every year make a massive dump of 2.12 billion tons of waste. OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries produce almost half of the world’s waste, while Africa and South Asia regions produce the least. High-income countries are responsible for 46% and lower income countries for about 6% of all waste generated. OECD estimated that 1% of increase in national income creates 0, 69% increase in municipal solid waste amount.

On one hand we throw away great amount of food and on the other 12, 5% of world population – about one in eight of the world – was starving between 2010-2012 based on FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). According to WHO (The World Health Organization) hunger and underweight are most common in Africa, India and Asia. Hunger goes hand in hand with poverty. Not to mention that the number of overweighed is growing. In 2014 more than 1, 9 billion (39%) adults were overweight.

Do we really need so many new cars, telephones, computers and other electric components, clothes and other material things, and so much food we cannot possible consume? Predictions for growth of population for around 2040 are showing a figure of 9 billion. Furthermore by 2100 population could reach 11 billion. Even today we are producing gigantic amount of waste, imagine what the future holds if our way of living does not change, and population continues to increase. Based on report from the World Bank municipal solid waste increase will be seen in developing countries and rapidly growing cities.

Things we throw may vanish from our minds but need to go somewhere. We collect, recycle, compost, incinerate, landfill and dump. But statistics show we have much work to do if we do not want to drown in waste in the future. It is hard to get information and data that correspond to the whole world. There are some numbers regarding waste in EU (European Union) and USA (United States of America) that need to be shown. Since this part of the world is more developed imagine what waste management looks like in developing or failing states, where waste management is not high priority. Waste is not collected in a big part of the world. Environmental Data Centre on waste has shown us that of all waste generated in EU only 36% were recycled. There are considerable variations across the EU member states. EUROSTAT report says each person in the EU generated 481 kg of municipal waste in 2013. 43% was recycled or composted, 31% was landfilled and 26% incinerated. Municipal waste consists to a large extent of waste generated by households, but may also include similar waste generated by small businesses and public institutions and collected by the municipality. Waste from agriculture and industry is not included. If we include waste from demolition and construction activities, mining and from industry sector, we can see that we are creating large mountains of which some have permanent consequences on environment and usage of natural resources. Ecological footprint calculated for year 2010 shows that the humanity has already overshot global bio capacity by 30% and now lives unsustainably by depleting stocks of “natural capital” (fish, forest, soil) and eroding critical life-support functions. With this lifestyle we are using ecological services quicker as Earth can renew them. Worldwatch Institute estimated that each year, 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That’s over one million plastic bags used per minute. In USA less than 5% of them were recycled. Scientists estimate that every square mile of ocean contains about 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. This information was released for year 2002. Packaging is becoming a big problem not to mention plastic, food and e-waste. Worldwide private and public consumption has grown and is still growing. With economic globalization, consumption patterns are becoming similar all over the globe.

With creating more and more waste we are becoming a threat to ourselves. What have we done with the only planet we know so far is livable, can be seen in documentaries such as Garbage Island, Inside the Garbage of the World and Plasticized. Just to mention some of them that are concerned with amount of waste we produce, destruction and threat we represent to different animal and plant spices, world and all in all to our future. But there is also some good news. The more we develop the more advance and effective waste management systems and technologies will be put in place.

We need to prevent, minimize, reuse and recycle things. Furthermore we must reduce volume of waste. Less consumption needs to be taken into an account. Better separation of waste and better awareness of population about necessity of recycling and reusing in complex and growing waste production is needed. As an individual we can help keep earth cleaner by separating different kinds of waste and with careful consideration with buying things and materials. Households are responsible for about 10% of total waste and that has an impact on environment. It impacts the quality of water, soil, air and also with waste management on public health. We can make it out victorious and meanwhile create jobs that are becoming more and more important with economic crisis. With lower population, denser, more resource-efficient cities, and less consumption, along with higher awareness we can tackle waste problem before it gets uncontrollable. We need to act more in accordance with sustainable development otherwise we are going down the path of self-destruction.

Teja Palko
Teja Palko
Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.