The global waste management market size is expected to reach $484.9 billion by 2025 from $330.6 billion in 2017, growing at a 6.0% pace from 2018 to 2025. Waste management is the collection, transportation, and disposal of garbage, sewage, and other waste products. It involves treatment of solid waste and disposal of products and substances in a safe and efficient manner. At least in theory.

To compare the whole mining industry is worth $487 billion, construction industry $1,534 billion and arts, entertainment, and recreation $340 billion. The conclusion is we are spending the same on waste already, as we are spending on art. The total gross sales in all industries globally are calculated at close to $34.5 trillion. This means close to 1% of global sales go to waste management.

Looking at UK, it produces 222.9 million tonnes of waste every year. Most comes from quarrying, mining, demolition and construction. Around 40 million tons is household waste. This means over a ton of waste per one household (27.1 million of households in UK per 2016 data). For every ton of household rubbish, commercial, industrial and construction businesses produce a further four.

UK has recycled 45.7% of household waste in 2017. UK would like to be recycling up to 50% household waste by 2020. However at the moment, around 45% of UK-based waste goes to landfills, some few percent to energy production.

This means around 100 million tons of waste go to landfills around UK. Where does this waste-mass go to? I will pause the non-recycled discussion for a moment here. There is a known issue with the recycled bit too.

Britain’s rush to recycle – driven by EU and Government targets – means UK reprocessors cannot cope with it all. At least 4 million tons of UK industrial, commercial and household waste is shipped overseas, much of it to feed the economies of India, China and South-east Asia.

It’s been estimated that UK typical household uses at least 373 plastic bottles per year. Only a small bit can be recycled. This means rest must be dumped somewhere. This dumping somewhere, is somehow accounted for recycling, as the plastic is sold to other countries, through commercial companies for recycling. Everyone knows it is not.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said in December that Britain had to “stop offshoring our dirt” and deal with its plastic waste at home. But he also said that in the short term, the country would continue sending its rubbish abroad.

Labour MP and member of the Environmental Audit Committee, Kerry McCarthy, told Unearthed that the government had failed to “come to its senses” since the China ban.

She said: “I thought the China ban would bring the government to its senses in demonstrating we could no long rely on exporting our plastic waste. But instead the minister… challenged the view of this as a crisis, and left it to the market to find alternative export markets.

Yes. China has created more restrictive rules about plastics. Might it be related to the recent ‘Blue Planet Effect‘? Multiple countries, where UK’s plastic was landing in, are restricting the rules. Like Poland, where after series of landfall waste-dump fires, rules are being restricted.  Or Vietnam, which is one of the biggest marine polluters with plastic.

Vietnam has also moved to make restrictions, announcing a temporary ban on plastic and paper waste imports from the middle of this month until October. Two of the country’s biggest ports – Tan Cang-Cai Mep International and Tan Cang-Cat Lai – have reportedly become overwhelmed with plastic and paper scrap since the China ban came into force in January.

Glass is another item that could be easily recycled, but isn’t. Some reports claim only as much as 50% of the glass is recycled in the UK. Which puts it well behind market leaders like Finland or Switzerland. Both recycle up to 90%.

This is however nowhere near one of the biggest polluters like US. US recycles maybe 35% of the overall waste. US main approach to their waste is burning, however there are serious health concerns being raised around burning rubbish.

Some experts worry that burning plastic recycling will create a new fog of dioxins that will worsen an already alarming health situation in Chester. Nearly four in 10 children in the city have asthma, while the rate of ovarian cancer is 64 percent higher than the rest of Pennsylvania and lung cancer rates are 24 percent higher, according to state health statistics.

All in all dealing with increased amount of waste is unavoidable. Up until we will learn to consume less. There is a significant cost to economy, but also a risk, future generations will need to learn to use waste as raw resources. Some of the raw resource production is expected to start falling in the next decade.

Minerals projected by some to enter production decline during the next 20 years:

  • Gasoline (2023)
  • Copper (2024). However data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) suggest that it is very unlikely that copper production will peak before 2040.
  • Zinc. But, developments in hydrometallurgy have transformed non-sulfide zinc deposits (largely ignored until now) into large low cost reserves.

Such projections may change, as new discoveries are made and typically misinterpret available data on Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves.

We need to start working on reducing our waste footprint. One other category of the waste, growing rapidly is e-waste. And it is slowly poisoning and killing the continent of Africa.

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