Every year, the world produces 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste, with at least 33% of that — to put it kindly — not being managed in an environmentally sound manner. The average amount of garbage created per person each day is 0.74 kilos, however it varies greatly, ranging from 0.11 to 4.54 kilograms. Despite having only 16 percent of the world’s population, high-income nations produce around 34% of the world’s garbage, or 683 million tonnes.

Looking ahead, worldwide garbage is anticipated to reach 3.40 billion tonnes by 2050, more than double the rate of population increase during that time. Overall, waste creation and income level have a favorable relationship. In high-income nations, daily per capita trash creation is forecast to grow by 19 percent by 2050, compared to low- and middle-income countries, where it is expected to increase by 40 percent or more. For incremental income changes at low income levels, waste generation initially reduces and subsequently grows at a quicker pace than for incremental income changes at high income levels. By 2050, the total amount of garbage produced in low-income nations is predicted to have increased by more than thrice. The East Asia and Pacific area produces the greatest garbage, accounting for 23% of global waste, while the Middle East and North Africa region produces the least, accounting for 6%. However, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa are the fastest increasing regions, with total trash creation anticipated to more than quadruple, double, and double by 2050, respectively. More than half of garbage is presently deposited publicly in these areas, and the trajectories of waste increase will have enormous ramifications for the environment, health, and prosperity, necessitating immediate action.

Waste generation estimates by region (millions of tonnes per year)

Waste collection is an important part of rubbish management, although rates vary a lot depending on income levels, with upper-middle- and high-income nations having practically universal waste collection. In cities, low-income nations collect roughly 48 percent of garbage, but outside of cities, this percentage lowers to just 26 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa collects roughly 44% of garbage, whereas Europe and Central Asia, as well as North America, gather at least 90% of waste.

Rates of waste collection by income level (percent)

The mix of waste varies according to socioeconomic level, indicating different consumption habits. High-income nations produce less food and green waste, accounting for 32 percent of total trash, and more dry waste that can be recycled, such as plastic, paper, cardboard, metal, and glass, accounting for 51 percent of total garbage. Food and green waste are produced in 53 percent and 57 percent of middle- and low-income nations, respectively, with the proportion of organic waste increasing as economic development levels decline. Materials that might be recycled account for just 20% of the waste stream in low-income nations. Aside from waste streams that are connected with wealth, there is little variation in waste streams among areas. Except for Europe, Central Asia, and North America, which create larger amounts of dry trash, all areas generate roughly 50% or more organic garbage on average.

Composition of global trash (percent)

It is a common misunderstanding that technology is the answer to the problem of mismanaged and growing waste. When it comes to solid waste management, technology is not a panacea and is generally only one issue to consider. When countries move away from open dumping and other primitive waste management systems, they have a better chance of succeeding when they choose locally relevant alternatives. The majority of trash is now deposited or disposed of in landfills across the world. Approximately 37% of garbage is disposed of in a landfill, with 8% of that going to sanitary landfills with landfill gas collecting systems. About 31% of garbage is dumped openly, whereas 19% is recovered through recycling and composting, and 11% is burnt for final disposal. High- and upper-middle-income countries are virtually entirely responsible for adequate waste disposal or treatment, such as regulated landfills or more stringently operated facilities. Open dumping is common in low-income nations; 93 percent of garbage is discarded in low-income countries, whereas just 2% is deposited in high-income ones. The Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia are the three regions that publicly dump more than 50% of their rubbish. The biggest amount of garbage in landfills, 54 percent, is found in upper-middle-income countries. In high-income nations, this percentage drops to 39%, with 36 percent of garbage diverted to recycling and composting and 22 percent to incineration. Incineration is generally employed in nations with high capacity, high revenue, and limited land.

Waste treatment and disposal on a global scale (percent)

Solid waste treatment and disposal produced 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent greenhouse gas emissions in 2016, accounting for 5% of worldwide emissions, based on the volume of garbage created, its composition, and how it is managed. This is mostly due to garbage being disposed of in open dumps and landfills that lack landfill gas collecting systems. Nearly half of all emissions come from food waste. If no changes are made in the industry, solid waste-related emissions are expected to rise to 2.38 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year by 2050.

Solid waste management is primarily a municipal duty in most nations, and almost 70% of countries have formed agencies to oversee policy formulation and regulatory monitoring in the waste industry. About two-thirds of nations have enacted solid waste management legislation and regulations, while enforcement varies greatly. Other than regulatory control and budgetary transfers, direct central government engagement in waste service provision is unusual, with around 70% of waste services being managed directly by local public organizations. Public agencies run at least half of the services, from primary trash collection through treatment and disposal, while around a third include a public-private collaboration. Successful collaborations with the private sector for finance and operations, on the other hand, tend to work only under particular conditions, such as with proper incentive structures and enforcement mechanisms, and hence are not always the best option.

Solid waste management systems are difficult to finance, much more so for continuing operational costs than for capital expenditures, and operational costs must be factored in from the start. Operating expenses for integrated waste management, which include collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal, typically surpass $100 per tonne in high-income nations. In absolute terms, lower-income nations spend less on waste operations, with expenses averaging $35 per tonne and occasionally higher, but they have a far harder time recovering money. Waste management is labor-intensive, with transportation expenses alone ranging from $20 to $50 per tonne. The cost recovery for garbage services varies dramatically depending on one’s income level. User fees range from $35 per year in low-income nations to $170 per year in high-income ones, with high-income countries enjoying full or virtually complete cost recovery. Depending on the type of user being invoiced, user fee models might be fixed or variable. Local governments typically fund approximately half of waste system investment expenses, with the rest coming mostly from national government subsidies and the private sector.