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Category — Environmental Health

Where on Earth will the waste go?

Tim Radford


An alligator in Beijing Zoo – how much longer will we continue to be overrun by waste? Image: David Castor via Wikimedia Commons

As the world’s population continues to grow, so too the collective rubbish dump of human waste increases – and according to a recent report, it might not be until sometime next century that it begins to recede.

Human waste production has multiplied tenfold in the last century. Rubbish – plastic bags, pizza boxes, empty beer cans, tinfoil, bubble wrap, old mattresses, rusty machinery, broken bottles, spent batteries, stale sandwiches, wilting salads and abandoned newsprint – is being generated faster than any other environmental pollutants, including greenhouse gases. And the problem will go on getting bigger until some time in the next century.

Daniel Hoornweg of the University of Ontario and Chris Kennedy of the University of Toronto in Canada and Perinaz Bhada-Tata of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates argue in Nature that the combination of urban growth and material affluence is creating a throwaway problem that won’t go away. The average person in the US throws away his (or her) own body weight in rubbish every month. The detritus linked to modern living has not only grown tenfold in a century; by 2025 it will double again.

Solid waste disposal has become one of any modern city’s biggest costs. Landfill sites near Shanghai, in Rio de Janeiro, and in Mexico City typically receive 10,000 tonnes of waste a day.  The world now has more than 2,000 waste incinerators, some able to burn 5,000 tonnes a day, creating attendant problems of ash and air-polluting fumes.

Landfill waste is of course also a notorious source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – but the authors are primarily concerned with the simple problems posed by the increasing volume of affluent society’s rejected stuff. [Read more →]

November 3, 2013   No Comments

Over 90 percent in Europe’s cities breath dangerous air

Over 90 Percent in Europe’s Cities Breath Dangerous Air (via Climate Central)

By John Vidal, The Guardian More than 90 percent of people living in European cities breathe air that the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) says leads to respiratory problems, heart disease, and shortened lives, according to a study published…

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October 18, 2013   No Comments