A lot of international environmental effort in the past decade has focused on climate change and greenhouse gases, but another looming crisis has been largely overlooked. A recent report by the World Bank predicts that global output of solid waste per year will increase by roughly 60% by the year 2025, exploding from the current 1.3 billion tons per year to 2.2 billion tons per year.
The report is one of the first published which encapsulated all components of waste management: generation, collection, composition, and disposal of MSW on a global scale. When solid waste production was differentiated by region, the report found that urban cities in developing countries are expected to be the largest perpetrators for increased solid waste production. Not surprisingly, the positive trend was strongest in countries with rapidly growing economies such as China, which in 2004 surpassed the United States as the largest waste generator in the world.
The cost of solid waste management is projected to grow from $205 billion dollars a year to $375 billion and the largest portion of this cost will be paid by low income countries. Dan Hoornweg, an urban specialist and co-author of the report, states that "The challenges surrounding municipal solid waste are going to be enormous, on a scale of, if not greater than, the challenges we are currently experiencing with climate change."
The findings of the World Bank were not comprised solely of doom and gloom. The authors of the report suggest that cities can ease their solid waste costs by focusing on waste reduction and recycling. Furthermore, the report proposes a number of strategies for reducing solid waste production including pricing mechanisms to stimulate waste reduction and increase recycling infrastructure, similar to California's recently adopted AB1149, which reinvests undredeemed bottle bill funds to support domestic plastic markets.