Waste management, recycling, and ambitious green initiatives have been big news in Canada over the last couple of months. It may seem like Canada is stepping up and attempting to take responsibility for our own waste management. However, depsite all this, Canada is at a "high risk" of a global garbage crisis.
Only recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to welcome to Vancouver 69 shipping containers filled with 1,500 tonnes of Canada’s garbage, after it had been sent to the Philippines and falsely labelled as recyclable.
At around the same time, plans were announced by the federal government in Canada to administer a blanket-ban on all single-use plastics in the country by 2021.
The report was created by Verisk Maplecroft, a strategic consulting firm that specializes in analyzing social and environmental risks to businesses. The company used publicly-available data, as well as academic research, to develop a picture of how the countries of the world are coping with their waste.
According to the study findings, over 2.1 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste is generated worldwide each year. To put it into context, the company explains that 2.1 billion tonnes is enough to fill 822,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, or 41,000 kms if laid out end-to-end, every single year. The research found that only 16% of this trash is recycled.
The report makes it clear that the U.S. is seriously lagging behind other countries, producing three times the global average of waste, and only re-using 35% of solid waste. This amounts to almost 12% of the global waste total. Germany was the most waste-efficient country, recycling a huge 68% of their total waste.
Canada had a relatively strong score, with the country’s total garbage equating to a less than 2 per cent share of global waste production. That said, the study found that Canada’s trash generation still outweighed the country’s share of the global population.
The head of environmental research at Verisk Mapelcroft, Will Nichols, told BBC News, "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."
In the same way that the Philippines rejected Canada’s garbage a few months ago, countries such as China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia are banning waste imports from other countries, too.
This, Nichols says, is changing the global waste dynamic. "They (Asian countries) don't want to be the world's dumping ground anymore," he said.