It was too perfect. And sad. On my way to see experts at Rio+20 speak about the growing waste problem in the developing world, I watched a man on his cell phone walk up to a recycling bin and dump his trash in the wrong receptacle. He walked off without even realizing what he had done.
It perfectly encapsulated the challenge. If people with access to proper recycling and waste management services aren’t using them properly, what about countries without those services?
According to experts at Rio+20, the problem is far greater than the international community is recognizing. With global municipal solid waste set to double in by 2025 — mostly in developing countries without the capabilities to manage that waste — many say it’s one of the most pressing environmental problems of our time.
“We are creating an environmental disaster that developing countries are ignoring at their own peril,” said David Newman, a board member with the International Solid Waste Association.
Less than half the world’s population has access to proper waste disposal, causing mountains of hazardous trash — including a growing amount of e-waste — to pile up. By 2020, e-waste from consumer electronics will jump 500% in some countries. That’s causing toxic chemicals to leach into groundwater and putting a financial burden on economically-constrained countries.
The United Nations has identified waste reduction strategies as a key part of its sustainable development goals. Chemical and municipal waste is mentioned frequently in the draft text that negotiators are putting together at Rio+20.
We recognize the importance of adopting a life-cycle approach and of further development and implementation of policies for resource efficiency and environmentally sound waste management. We therefore commit to further reduce, reuse ...