VOA Special English
Report: Harmful Waste Creation Set to Increase


    The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a report on Wednesday that public waste creation will greatly increase by 2050. The rise will cause hundreds of billions of dollars of damage through biodiversity loss, climate change, and deadly pollution, UNEP reports.

    UNEP's Global Waste Management Outlook 2024 says worldwide waste creation would greatly increase unless governments take urgent preventative measures. The world's fastest-growing economies will drive much of the increase in waste. These include some countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa that are already struggling to deal with current public waste levels.

    The report predicts municipal solid waste generation will grow from 2.3 billion tonnes in 2023 to 3.8 billion tonnes by 2050. UNEP projected the yearly cost of waste treatment by the middle of the century would rise to $640 billion worldwide. That represents a more than 75 percent increase from 2020. That year, the world produced an estimated 2.1 billion tonnes of public solid waste, which excludes industrial waste.

    FILE - A woman walks through a landfill looking for salvageable items, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, July 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)
    FILE - A woman walks through a landfill looking for salvageable items, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, July 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

    Damage caused by the growing waste would account for about $443 billion of the total cost.

    The report, called Beyond an Age of Waste: Turning Rubbish into a Resource, was released during the U.N. Environment Assembly in Kenya this week. The writers argue that humanity has "moved backwards" over the past ten years. They say humans are creating more waste, more pollution, and more climate changing gases.

    Waste prevention measures and improved waste treatment could reduce those costs, the report said. But it notes, there are major barriers to such reforms, including weak enforcement systems.

    Negotiators are working toward a treaty to deal with the especially damaging and dangerous pollution from plastics. They are beginning a fourth round of talks in April. UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said she is hopeful they will complete the agreement by the end of this year.

    Environmentalists and fossil fuel producers continue to disagree about the terms of the agreement. They especially dispute whether the deal should center on reducing plastics production or increasing recycling and re-use.

    "There is an interest, and especially among the countries that are producing raw polymer, but as I keep telling them, this is not an anti-plastic treaty," Andersen told Reuters, noting there would still be a need for plastics in vehicles and medical equipment.

    Raw polymers are used in the creation of plastic materials.

    Andersen said she hopes no delegations would work to block progress on the treaty, but instead "find a way forward that actually takes into account the fact that we are drowning in plastic."

    I'm Gregory Stachel.

    Aaron Ross reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    biodiversity – n. the existence of many different kinds of plants and animals in an environment

    fossil fuel – n. a fuel (such as coal, oil, or natural gas) that is formed in the earth from dead plants or animals

    recycle – v. to make something new from (something that has been used before)