The amount of rubbish generated by city dwellers is set to rise steeply in the next two decades, with much of the increase coming in fast-growing cities in developing countries, according to a World Bank report published on Wednesday.
The amount of municipal solid waste is growing fastest in China – which overtook the US as the world’s largest waste generator in 2004 – other parts of east Asia, and parts of eastern Europe and the Middle East, the report says. Growth rates for rubbish in these areas are similar to their rates for urbanisation and increases in GDP.
The report estimates the amount of municipal solid waste will rise from the current 1.3bn tonnes a year to 2.2bn by 2025. The annual cost of solid waste management is projected to rise from $205bn to $375bn, with cost increasing most sharply in poorer countries. The report’s authors point to a looming crisis in waste treatment as living standards rise and urban populations grow.
“Improving solid waste management, especially in the rapidly growing cities of low-income countries, is becoming a more and more urgent issue,” said Rachel Kyte, vice-president of sustainable development at the World Bank. “The findings of this report are sobering, but they also offer hope that once the extent of this issue is recognised, local and national leaders, as well as the international community, will mobilise to put in place programmes to reduce, reuse, recycle, or recover as much waste as possible before burning it (and recovering the energy) or otherwise disposing of it. Measuring the extent of the problem is a critical first step to resolving it.”
The report notes that municipal solid waste management is the most important service a city provides. In poorer countries, rubbish collection and processing is often the largest single budget item for cities, and one of the largest employers.
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