The world has a rubbish problem. In the developed world, we have access to more goods than ever before. However, more goods inevitably mean more waste. It’s where that waste ends up that’s the problem. But which countries topped the rubbish production list in 2021?
The Impact of High Rubbish Production on Poorer Countries
In wealthier countries, an ever-growing population is buying more and more goods. But what happens to the extra waste we’re producing? The shocking reality is that we export much of it, particularly plastic, to poorer countries. These nations are the least able to deal with huge amounts of waste. Many people in the world’s poorest nations don’t have access to a waste collection system. Waste is either burned or dumped, leading to pollution and serious health problems.
There are people in poorer nations that earn an income from picking waste from rubbish dumps. They look for reusable items in dirty and dangerous conditions that they can sell. But this is far from a happy consequence of our rubbish production.
Take the district of Agbogbloshie in Ghana, for example. The district is home to the world’s largest ‘digital dump.’
Electronic waste like old computers, fridges, and other electrical appliances is sent here from across the globe. These electronic items can contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Many people who pick rubbish on the dump suffer from health problems like burns and chronic headaches. Some workers have even died of cancer at an early age.
What Are We Throwing Away?
When it comes to rubbish production, plastic is the obvious glaring problem. Single-use plastic, in particular, ends up as litter or on landfill sites. It also often ends up in rivers and oceans where it causes pollution and harms wildlife.
According to statistics, e-waste is the fastest-growing global waste stream. Food is the most common form of waste and it accounts for half of the solid waste we throw away.
Which Country Tops the Rubbish Production List?
As you’d expect of a country with a population of 1.4 billion, China produces the most municipal solid waste (over 15%). However, considering in terms of population, the US generates the most waste per person. The United States makes up around 5% of the world’s population but produces 12% of the solid waste. It also takes the title of the biggest producer of food waste in the world.
What might surprise you is that Denmark produces the most waste per person in Europe. That’s right, the Scandinavian nation with a clean, green reputation produces as much waste per head as the US.
When it comes to industrial, agricultural, and hazardous waste, Canada tops the charts. This is mainly due to the prevalence of heavy industries like oil refining and metal manufacturing.
Some Reasons to be Hopeful
Thankfully, many countries are realising that relentless rubbish production can’t go on unchecked.
- The country banned plastic bags in major cities in 2020. The ban will come into effect in smaller cities and towns by the end of this year.
- Single-use plastic items are being eliminated from restaurants and takeaways, and plastic straws are already banned.
- There has been significant investment in recycling and creating a circular economy.
- The country’s Environment Ministry introduced a five-point action plan to tackle plastic waste in 2018.
- Japan is a nation obsessed with hygiene. This means that goods like food are wrapped in a lot of plastic. Now the government has announced that it wants to reduce plastic use by 25% by 2030.
So it’s not all bad news, but there’s still much more to do. We all have a part to play in driving down rubbish production to reduce the burden on the planet. What will you do today to reduce waste? For more interesting articles on all things rubbish and sustainability, check out the rest of our blog.