Since early 2016 I have been investigating six megacities in the world (Jakarta, Tokyo, Lagos, New York, São Paulo and Amsterdam) how they manage or mismanage their waste and is shows some remarkable differences. It actually poses the question what is waste and is it actually not a resource.
The world generates per day 3.5 million tones of solid waste, ten times more then a century ago. If nothing is done, it will be 11 million tones by the end of the century. The average American throws away his own body weight every month. Where Japan produces only one third of the waste per person compared to the USA. New York produces by far the most waste in the world as a city: 33 million tons per year, which is 15 times more then Lagos, which has a bigger population.
With a sharp increase in the world population and growing economies in different parts of the world, we are producing more waste then ever. Mainly in Europe and the US our trash is invisible, in other parts of the world its more visible in the form of waste dumps.
Needless to say that specially open dumps have a severe environmental impact due to the release of methane. Open burning is also damaging, because of the environmental and health impacts.
Landfills / waste dumps in emerging cities are quickly filling up, some receiving 10,000 tons of waste per day.
As a country becomes richer, the composition of its waste changes: more packaging, electronic waste, broken toys and appliances.
New York (like San Francisco) now have a goal of ‘zero waste’, this should be achieved by reduction and recycling, but they still have a long way to go. In New York plastic shopping bags are still provided in almost every store. The world produces 311 million ton of plastic per year of which only 5% is recycled.
The Indonesia and China are the leading plastic polluters of the oceans. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans then fish, currently its estimated that 5.25 trillion plastic particles, weighing 270.000 tons are floating in the oceans.
An average person in the US or Western Europe consumes / uses 100 kilos of plastic per year. Fifteen million tons of headphones are being produced annually, most are not recycled (for example the headphones in the plane). The packaging industry as a whole, including online stores pose a huge challenge.
About one third of the food produced in the world gets lost or is wasted. The Dutch through away 400.000 bread loafs per day. The USA is waisting by far most food, mainly due to fastfood restaurants.
Most waste in Africa, the USA and Asia end up in open dumps of which many are full and there is no space available to extend or for new dumps. Europe has the highest percentage (12%) of waste being burned in incinerators, some of them are relatively clean, many aren’t and are a threat to the environment and public health. Tokyo has more then twenty incinerators in the metropolitan area, which the city are not hazardous for public health, because of an advanced filtering system and since most of what is burned is organic.
If the world is not prepared to think about waste reduction and actually treat waste as a resource, next generations will drown in their own waste.
I have been trying to illustrate this not only in stills, but also in video, drone footage and audio.