Planet Garbage — Global Issues

We are spewing waste and pollution that affects our environment, our economies and our health, warns UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS
  • By Baher Kamal (Madrid:)
  • Inter press service

And straight to the facts.

  • Every minutethe equivalent of one garbage truck’s worth of plastic is thrown into the ocean.
  • If food loss and waste were a countryit will be the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Over 75% of all e-waste not managed securely.
  • Resource extraction responsible for half of the world’s carbon emissions.
  • Amount of municipal solid waste by 2050, global production could increase from 2.24 billion tons to 3.88 billion tons.
  • 80% of marine pollution originates in the land.

One billion tons of food in the trash

The waste sector contributes significantly to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity and nature loss and pollution.

Just take the shocking case of food. Each year, approximately 931 million tons of food is lost or wasted, and up to 14 million tons of plastic waste enters aquatic ecosystems.

Such unimaginable food waste in a world with a billion empty plates just needs to be added to the billions of tons of plastics, textiles, discarded electronics and debris from mining and construction sites.

“We are trashing our only home”

“The planet is literally drowning in trash, and it’s time to clean up,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned, citing the former. In:International Zero Waste Day (March 30, 2023).

“We are trashing our only house,” he said. “We are spewing waste and pollution that affects our environment, our economies and our health.”

Guterres said it was time for a “war on waste” on three fronts, calling on polluters to take the lead.

“Those who produce waste need to design products and services that use fewer resources and materials, intelligently manage any waste generated at all stages of their product life and find creative ways to extend the life of the products they sell,” he said.

“We need to find opportunities to reuse, recycle, reuse, repair and restore the products we use. And you should think carefully before throwing these things in the trash.”

The case of Turkey

Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project has so far managed to save about 650 million tons of raw materials and eliminate four million tons of greenhouse gas emissions through recycling.

“All life on Earth is interconnected, but industrialization has led to overconsumption that is polluting the planet,” said Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan, who heads the program.

“Humans have created this horrible landscape.”

“We have an obligation to create a fair system and take measures based on burden sharing, where we pay attention to those countries that are deeply affected by the effects of climate change, which did not play a role in the first place,” he said.

Be “wise to waste”

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, head of UN-Habitat, the UN’s urban development agency, called on countries to “be smart about waste,” including finding value in reusing things before throwing them away.

“Zero waste is the first step towards creating waste-wise societies,” he said. “The first step is to take responsibility and make a conscious effort to reduce our consumption of single-use plastic. Remember that everything we use and throw away has to go somewhere.”

Food systems

The world’s population will reach 10 billion by 2050, and demand for food and non-food agricultural products is also expected to grow by up to 56%, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Meeting this demand will require healthier and more sustainable food production and consumption, said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu.

“We must urgently address the inefficiencies and inequities in our agri-food systems to make them more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable.”

This will be greatly helped by the implementation of the global strategy for sustainable consumption and production, which calls for the adoption of sustainable consumption and production goals in all sectors by 2030.

Another tool available is End Plastic Pollution. towards an international legally binding instrument” adopted by the United Nations Environment Assembly on March 2, 2022.

Zero waste.

A zero-waste approach implies responsible production, consumption and disposal of products in a closed, circular system. This means that resources are reused or recovered as much as possible, and we minimize air, land or water pollution.

The product must be designed to be durable and require fewer and lower impact materials. By choosing less resource-intensive production and transportation methods, producers can further limit pollution and waste.

Consumers can also play a key role in zero waste by changing habits and reusing and refurbishing products as much as possible before disposing of them properly.

“The world is bigger than five”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that “the world is bigger than five,” referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It sounds good. But the fact is that those five are the world’s largest producers, and their corporations dominate world markets, making staggering profits from destruction, all while being bigger polluters.

For example, along with oil and gas corporations, food companies more than doubled their profits in 2022 at a time when more than 800 million people were hungry and 1.7 billion workers lived in countries where inflation exceeded wages, as reported by Oxfam International.

Meanwhile, the food industry continues to use highly toxic chemicals in their products, some of which cause heart disease and death. Trans fat is one of them, adding to the polluting fertilizers, pesticides, microplastics and other long-lasting types that end up in land, water and air.

Shouldn’t such deadly practices be classified as “crimes against humanity”? And to transfer those who are guilty to international criminal courts.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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