New Delhi: South Asia is likely to become the fastest growing region of waste by 2025, according to a paper published in the Nature journal on Thursday.
The paper said that although the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are the largest waste generators, producing around 1.75 million tonnes per day, East Asia today is the world’s fastest growing region of waste.
The authors of the study said that in the past century, as the world’s population has grown and become more urban and affluent, waste production has risen tenfold, and that by 2025 it will double again.
“Rubbish is being generated faster than other environmental pollutants, including greenhouse gases. Solid-waste management is one of the greatest costs to municipal budgets,” said Daniel Hoornweg, Perinaz Bhada-Tata and Chris Kennedy, in a commentary on Nature journal.
Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata also authored the 2012 World Bank report, titled What a Waste, which estimated that global solid-waste generation would rise from more than 3.5 million tonnes per day in 2010 to more than 6 million tonnes per day in 2025.
Extending those projections to 2100 for various published population and GDP scenarios, the paper establishes that global peak waste will not happen this century if current trends continue. The study said that although OECD countries will peak by 2050 and Asia–Pacific countries by 2075, waste will continue to rise in the fast-growing cities of sub-Saharan Africa.
A 2012 World Bank report said that urban India generates 109,589 tonnes of waste per day; as compared to urban US which generates 624,700 tonnes per day, the highest in the world and the second largest is urban China at 520,548 tonnes per day. India’s waste generation will more than triple to 376,639 tonnes per day by 2025, especially with the population of urban India expected to rise to 538 million.
Waste reduction and dematerialization efforts in OECD countries are countered by trends in east Asia, particularly in China, the study said. China’s solid-waste generation is expected to increase from 520,550 tonnes per day in 2005 to 1.4 million tonnes per day in 2025.
“The rate at which solid-waste generation will rise depends on expected urban population and living standards growth and human responses,” said the authors of the study in a commentary in Nature journal.
Meanwhile experts in India continue to stress on the importance of segregation of waste to avert crisis in the future. “First, we need to segregate the wet waste from the non-wet waste, but the largest challenge is to improve the key incentive systems for waste contractors,” said Swati Ramanathan, co founder of Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a not for profit organization. “In India, incentives are given to contractors based on weight, and the focus of incentives must shift to segregation.”
The authors further predicted that by 2100, solid-waste generation rates will exceed 11 million tonnes per day — more than three times today’s rate. “With lower populations, denser, more resource-efficient cities and less consumption (along with higher affluence), the peak could come forward to 2075 and reduce in intensity by more than 25%. This would save around 2.6 million tonnes per day,” said
“Through a move towards stable or declining populations, denser and better-managed cities consuming fewer resources, and greater equity and use of technology, we can bring peak waste forward and down. The environmental, economic and social benefits would be enormous,” said the authors.