A wasteful world

The global population is growing, and waste is increasing accordingly. In its Global Waste Management Outlook 2024, the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) describes today’s world as a wasteful world, where the environmental and financial costs of short-sighted trash management are rocketing.

As reported by ISWA, municipal solid waste generation is predicted to grow from 2.3 billion tons in 2023 to 3.8 billion tons by 2050. The global direct cost of waste management was estimated at USD 252 billion in 2020, but it rises to USD 361 billion when considering the hidden costs that poor waste disposal practices have on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Without urgent action on waste management, by 2050 the global annual cost could almost double and exceed USD 640 billion.

The report also points out that the access to waste collection services varies significantly around the globe. While in North America and Western Europe almost 100% of cities and communities have regular collection services in place, less than 40% of municipal waste is collected in lower-income countries in Oceania, Central and South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. This means that 540 million tons of garbage (27% of the global total) are not being collected, thus some 2.7 billion people do not have their waste collected – a huge environmental damage, but also a massive health issue.

Can we change this course? ISWA launches an urgent call for action for national and local governments to support bold and transformative solutions. The wasteful world can be dissolved if thinking of rubbish as a resource, in a truly circular perspective, and shifting to zero-waste practices.

Waste collection should be provided as an essential service and become the starting point for effective recycling programs. Smart Waste technologies can be highly beneficial to design and deploy data-driven collection services in cities and rural areas, turning waste from a cost burden to an opportunity for healthier, more sustainable and attractive communities.

The impact of getting waste under control would be environmentally significant, but also financially relevant. ISWA estimates that waste prevention and management measures could limit global garbage-related annual costs to USD 270 billion by 2050. If implementing a circular economy model, sustainable business practices, and full waste management, we could even aim at a full net gain of USD 108.5 billion per year.


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