Management of organic waste is a major dilemma for developing countries. It generates unpleasant odors and helps rats, flies, bugs and mosquitoes multiply and spread diseases. As it decomposes, organic waste generates methane, a gas that contributes significantly to global warming. Last year Daniel Hoornweg, Perinaz Bhada-Tata and Chris Kennedy predicted in an article in the magazine Nature that the global rate of solid waste generation is expected to triple by 2100. This is bad news because if the investment for solid waste management in developing countries remains as low as it is today, the world is at risk of irreversible environmental deterioration.
Urbanization is the most powerful force shaping the planet today. This can be good news as urbanization is the best bet we have to meet our global poverty reduction targets. Cities generate our wealth, our culture, and our innovation. This is also bad news since cities generate the lion’s share of the world’s GHG emissions, and cities are responsible for most of the planet’s current decline in biodiversity. Cities also generate solid waste; lots of it and the amount is growing fast.
‘Peak waste’ – that point in time when all the waste from all the cities finally plateaus around the world, and then slowly starts to decline, is not on track to happen this century. Estimates are that it will peak at three-times today’s current waste generation rate. Peak waste is an excellent proxy for humanity’s cumulative global environmental impact; therefore we are on track to triple today’s overall global environmental impact. Our ‘assault on the planet’ will start to subside on the other side of peak waste. Therefore we must move peak waste forward and reduce its intensity when it finally does arrive.