Garbage overload: The U.S. creates 3 times more waste than the global average

The amount of waste produced by human beings is a global crisis, as we look for ways to deal with the tons of garbage that result from our consumption of consumer goods. But it turns out that the United States holds a dubious honor when it comes to the subject of rubbish, outdoing other countries by a factor of three.

According to a new analysis by the English risk management firm Verisk Maplecroft, the U.S. is indeed the waste capital of the world:

“Our Waste Generation Index (WGI), which captures per capita rates of MSW, plastic, food and hazardous waste production, shows that US citizens and businesses are the largest contributors to the waste problem across the four indicators measured. At 773kg per head, the country generates 12% of global MSW, approximately 239 million tonnes, while only accounting for 4% of the world’s population.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, the U.S. is also one of the worst when it comes to recycling its waste, The Guardian notes:

“’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.

Will Nichols, the firm’s head of environment, said the US had better recycling abilities than much of the world, ‘but the sheer amount of waste that is being generated is not being dealt with as well.”


Among the worst of these waste products is plastic, which often does not biodegrade or takes years to do so, Verisk Maplecroft warns:

“The country’s seeming lack of resolve to deal with waste domestically may become a mounting problem in the face of plastics import bans from China and many developing countries, where the US currently exports a large proportion of its plastic waste.

“China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia have all banned, or are set to ban, imports of solid waste, including a host of plastics. “Additionally, in May, almost all the world, with the notable exception of the US, agreed to restrict shipments of hard-to-recycle plastic waste to developing nations.

“These emerging shifts in policy are going to make it all the harder for countries such as the US who are underperforming in relation to recycling.”

The plastic problem cannot possibly be overstated, as more and more countries are refusing to be the dumping ground for our garbage. How gigantic is the plastic waste mountain? Since 1950, humans have made 8.3 billion tons of plastic, and yet we continue to make more of it despite not knowing how what exactly to do with it once it’s been used and discarded. We are almost literally drowning in a sea of plastic.


Even worse is the fact that most political figures in Washington seem to lack the courage or imagination to deal with the problem of waste and recycling. Instead, they’d rather kick the proverbial can further down the road and pretend nothing’s wrong. But until we address the issue, we’re merely creating a bigger mess with each day we refuse to act.


Featured Image Via Pixabay


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Andrew Bradford

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