Waste Crisis: Americans Create 3x More Waste Than Global Average
When it comes to creating waste, no one tops the U.S. And when it comes to recycling waste, well, the U.S. is one of the worst, according to a new analysis by the English risk management firm Verisk Maplecroft.
The numbers for the outsized contribution to the global waste crisis by the U.S. are staggering. The U.S. makes up only four percent of the world's population, but produces 12 percent of the world's global waste. By contrast, China and India make up more than 36 percent of the world's population and produce 27 percent of global municipal solid waste, as The Guardian reported.
The "indestructible nature" of plastic waste "coupled with our relentless global throwaway culture, has left us wit… https://t.co/Ujc2MRBGkP— National Observer (@National Observer)1561465709.0
On average, each American produces three times as much trash as the global mean. That includes plastics and food waste. In fact, the firm estimates that each American produces over 1,700 pounds (773 kg) of solid waste per year, which includes 234 pounds of plastic. That means every American's output is three times that of the average Chinese person and seven times more than people living in Ethiopia, according to the report, as the BBC reported.
And the U.S. is not doing well at recycling all that plastic. The firm found that the U.S. only recycled 35 percent of its municipal waste, while Germany, the most efficient country recycles 68 percent of its global waste.
"The US is the only developed nation whose waste generation outstrips its ability to recycle, underscoring a shortage of political will and investment in infrastructure," the firm said, as The Guardian reported.
The report comes as the world faces a mounting plastic crisis that is polluting our air, water, and food supply. The U.S. finds itself at a crossroads as China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia start to ban waste imports. Meanwhile, Indonesia and the Philippines are increasingly strict on the waste they will accept.
The U.S. has damaged the global fight to rein in plastic, blocking international efforts to limit plastic waste, including banning single-use water bottles and plastic bags. The U.S. also refused to join a global agreement seeking to slow the flow of poor-quality plastics to developing nations, according to The Guardian.
"I think you see in survey after survey that infrastructure in the US just isn't there to provide the recycling option," said Will Nichols, head of environmental research at Verisk Maplecroft, as the BBC reported. "A lot of US waste - now that it can't get shipped to China - is just getting burnt, there just isn't the investment in place in infrastructure to deal with this problem."
"They (Asian countries) don't want to be the world's dumping ground anymore," said Will Nichols.
The U.S. is not the only country that fails to manage waste well. While much better than America at recycling and producing less waste per capita, other industrialized countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia are also disproportionately responsible for the global waste crisis, the analysis shows, according to Eco-Business.
The analysis found that of the 2.1 billion metric tons of global waste, only 16 percent of it is recycled. Yet, that shortcoming in recycling belies a larger consumption problem.
"There's too much focus on recycling being the kind of silver bullet solution, which it is not," said Niall Smith, senior environmental analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, as The Guardian reported. "We have enough plastic in circulation to really cause disruption of marine food webs, which is already in process. I think what we need to be working towards is almost a zero-material-footprint kind of society."
“There is no greener packaging than no packaging.” #BreakFreeFromPlastic https://t.co/9B7QeQZfd7— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace)1561827907.0
Correction: A previous version of this article was posted under Jordan Simmons name instead of Jordan Davidson.
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This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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