World Bank predicts annual cost of treating solid waste rising to $375b by 2025

The annual cost of solid waste management is projected to rise from the current $205 billion to $375 billion, according to a new, far-reaching World Bank report on the state of municipal solid waste around the world.

Most cost is believed to increase severely in low income countries by 2025.

Released on June 6, 2012, the report titled “What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management”, said a sharp rise in the amount of garbage generated will come from urban residents between now and 2025.

The report estimates that the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) will rise from the current 1.3 billion tones per year to 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025, with much of the increase coming in rapidly growing cities in developing countries.

The World Bank believes that there is a looming crisis in MSW treatment as living standards rise and urban populations grow.

Giving projections, the report indicated that Low Income countries are expected to generate 213 million tonnes of solid waste a day with the population rising to 676 million by 2025. Lower Middle Income ones are also projected to generate 956 million tonnes of solid waste per day. Its population is predicted to reach 2.08 billion.

Waste generation will hit 360 million tonnes per day by 2025 in Upper Middle Income countries with expected population of 619 million.

For High Income nations, waste generation a day by 2025 will reach 686 million tones and population at 912 million.

The World Bank said it is not surprised by the figures presented in the report.

“What we’re finding in these figures is not that surprising,” said Dan Hoornweg, Lead Urban Specialist in the Finance, Economics, and Urban Development Department of the World Bank and co-author of the report.

“What is surprising, however, is that when you add the figures up we’re looking at a relatively silent problem that is growing daily. The challenges surrounding municipal solid waste are going to be enormous, on a scale of, if not greater than, the challenges we are currently experiencing with climate change. This report should be seen as a giant wake-up call to policy makers everywhere,” Hoornweg added.

The report noted that municipal solid waste management is the most important service a city provides. It also showed that the amount of municipal solid waste is growing fastest in China (which surpassed the US as the world’s largest waste generator in 2004), other parts of East Asia, and part of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Growth rates for MSW in these areas are similar to their rates for urbanization and increases in GDP, the report observed. “There is a direct correlation between the per capita level of income in cities and the amount of waste per capita that is generated. In general, as a country urbanizes and populations become wealthier, the consumption of inorganic materials (e.g. plastics, paper, glass, aluminum) increases, while the relative organic fraction decreases,” it added.

The report also highlighted policy recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, many of which emanate from inefficient solid waste management practices.

Post-consumer waste is estimated to account for almost 5% of total global GHG, while methane from landfills represents 12% of total global methane emissions, according to the World Bank.

The report listed a number of practical approaches that could be applied in most cities curb the generation of solid waste.

They include:

·      Public education to inform people about their options to reduce waste generation and increase recycling and composting;

·      Pricing mechanisms (such as product charges) to stimulate consumer behaviour to reduce waste generation and increase recycling;

·      User charges tied to the quantity of waste disposed of, with (for example) consumers separating recyclables paying a lower fee for waste disposal; and/or

·      Preferential procurement policies and pricing to stimulate demand for products made with recycled post-consumer waste.

By Ekow Quandzie

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