Study: US is world's top waste producer

- Jul 08, 2019-

NEW YORK - The United States is the world's top waste producer which creates three times the global average of per capita trash, new research on global garbage trends has shown.

The study, conducted by British risk management firm Verisk Maplecroft, found that over 2.1 billion tons of municipal solid waste are generated globally each year.

However, only 16 percent of the waste is recycled each year, while 46 percent is disposed of unsustainably, the research said.

According to the research's Waste Generation Index, which captures per capita rates of municipal solid waste, plastic, food and hazardous waste production, US citizens and businesses are the largest contributors to the waste problem across the four indicators measured.

At 773 kg per head of population, the US generates 12 percent of global municipal solid waste, while only accounting for 4 percent of the world's population.

In contrast, China and India make up over 36 percent of the global population, but generate 27 percent of global municipal waste.

While being the world's top waste producer, the US is also one of the worst of any industrialized nation for managing its trash.

"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 research said.

According to the research, the country only recycles 35 percent of its municipal solid waste. In comparison, Germany, the world's most efficient country on waste management, recycles 68 percent of its municipal solid waste.

US' lack of resolve to deal with waste domestically may become a mounting problem in the face of plastics import bans from many developing countries, the research warned.

"With the world's attention firmly fixed on the problem of waste, we expect governments to act, with businesses footing the bill," said Niall Smith, Senior Environmental Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.