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Visualizing What the World Thinks About Waste

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What the World Thinks About Waste

Visualizing What the World Thinks About Waste

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Waste is a seemingly inseparable part of modern life.

In every industrialized society, humans consume many goods ranging from fresh food to automobiles. Inevitably, the majority of these goods are associated with waste that ends up clogging up our landfills, recycling systems, or even our oceans.

While garbage is widely universal, our perceptions on it vary from culture to culture – and when it comes to thinking about the future of our planet, these differences are important to think about.

Waste by Country

Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it shows global attitudes towards waste, recycling, and the environment.

Using data from select countries, here is the amount of solid waste created per capita on a daily basis:

CountryDaily Solid Waste (per capita)
United States2.58 kg
Canada2.33 kg
Australia2.23 kg
Germany2.11 kg
United Kingdom1.79 kg
Japan1.71 kg
Mexico1.24 kg
China1.02 kg
India0.34 kg

The U.S. leads the way in waste, but Western countries like Canada, Germany, and Australia are not far behind.

In India and China, waste numbers are low per capita right now, but they will continue to creep closer to Western figures as their economies further urbanize and increase consumption.

Global Attitudes Towards Waste

About 72% of plastic packaging does not get recovered at all, with 40% of all waste going to the landfill and 32% leaking out of the collection system (not collected, illegally dumped, or mismanaged).

With this in mind, who is responsible for reducing plastic packaging?

  • 20% of global respondents say that the companies producing packaged goods should be responsible
  • 16% say the government should be responsible
  • 10% say the companies selling packaged goods should be responsible
  • 8% say consumers
  • 37% say all the above are equally responsible
  • 9% say other, including having no opinion or being undecided

Interestingly, looking at individual countries reveals different perceptions than broader, global norms.

Attitudes Differ by Country

The infographic highlights the specific differences in attitudes towards waste between a multitude of countries.

While one expects big differences between countries like China and Germany, it can be shown that opinions on waste vary even between geographically proximate countries with similar levels of economic development. In South Korea and Japan, for example, waste attitudes differ considerably.

Per person, Japan produces 1.71 kg of solid waste per day, about 38% more than South Korea (1.24 kg).

South Koreans are more worried about the use of non-recyclable packaging, with 85% of people expressing concern about the issue. Roughly 60% of Japanese people felt the same.

To address this issue, 52% of Koreans said that they are willing to stop buying goods that have non-recyclable packaging – and only 20% in Japan concurred.

Even views of something broader like climate change differ between the two countries. In Japan, 38% of the population sees climate change as being caused by human activity, while 72% of Koreans see climate change the same way.

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Economy

The Circular Economy: Redesigning our Planet’s Future

Our modern world was designed for mass consumption and waste. Choosing to build a circular economy will be integral to the future of our planet.

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Circular Economic Model

Think about the last item you threw away. Did you consider where that product ended up, once you threw it away?

The Earth’s growing waste problem can be traced back to a culture that treats virtually every item we buy and own as disposable. Rapid urbanisation, population growth, and industrialisation are key contributors to the burgeoning volumes of waste that humans are producing each year.

But what if there was away to get around that?

Introducing the Circular Economy

Today’s post from BlackRock highlights the key benefits of adopting a circular economy, and examines the factors that will make the biggest impact in the years to come.

Circular Economy

A Culture of Consumption

Mass production is making products cheaper, more readily available, and more readily disposable, bringing levels of material comfort unimaginable to previous generations.

Companies are making new products at a frenetic pace to keep up with global demand─consuming finite resources as if the Earth had an infinite supply.

The intense effects of this mass consumption are visible across multiple industries:

  • Construction: Construction waste alone is expected to reach 2.2 billion tonnes annually by 2025.
  • Fast Fashion: Roughly 87% of clothing is discarded or burned each year, costing US$100 billion.
  • Plastics: Over 95% of plastic packaging value is wasted every year, costing up to US$120 billion.

As natural resources decline and waste continues to pile up, our society is at a crossroads.

A Tale of Two Economies

Today, most of the world follows the Take-Make-Waste practices of the linear economy, with little regard for future use of these resources and products. Unfortunately, most of this ends up in landfills─by 2050, we could be producing 3.4 billion tonnes of waste each year.

The circular economy, by contrast, is focused on redesigning our systems, processes, and products to enable goods to be used longer, repurposed, or recycled more efficiently.

The circular economy is a major transformational force that will last decades…investors are increasingly considering sustainability factors when making investment decisions.

—BlackRock

Companies and governments that choose to adopt a circular economic model could end up saving €600 billion (US$663 billion) annually─and potentially add €1.8 trillion (US$2 trillion) in additional benefits to Europe’s overall economy.

Designing a Better Future

Three major factors are driving the gradual, global shift to a circular economy.

  1. Economic

    Companies will need to switch from wasteful to sustainable practices, and many are taking steps towards a better future. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment was signed in 2018 by over 400 organisations to eliminate plastic waste and pollution.

  2. Regulatory

    Regulations such as bans on single-use plastics and international waste imports are growing more stringent, and some governments are also offering tax incentives for corporations that follow sustainable practices.

  3. Society

    More consumers are actively researching and questioning the impacts of the products they buy, and consumer demand is showing a preference for reusable products and practices.

While few public companies today are actively using a circular economy, several major brands are leading the way in sustainable business practices.

  • Philips: Light-as-a-service that provides access to lighting rather than ownership of lightbulbs
  • Levi Strauss: Repurposing old garments into building insulation, upholstery, and new clothing
  • Toshiba: First multi-function printer, heat-sensitive erasable toner can do up to five reprints per page
  • Renault: Revamped old vehicle drive trains, engines, and gearboxes to almost-new condition

Companies and governments in the circular economy have a structural advantage to solve some of the world’s biggest economic issues ─ giving them a strong, long-term market for goods and services, the potential to lower costs, and open profitable new business streams.

Lasting Impact on People, Planet, and Profit

In order for the circular economic model to achieve widespread adoption, both sustainable investment and partnerships across sectors are needed.

This rally for change is making an impact on financial markets─sustainable investments around the world grew from US$13.3 trillion in 2012 to US$30.7 trillion in 2018.

Healthy economies rely on a healthy environment, and building a circular economy is integral to the future health of our economy, planet, and society.

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Economy

Ranked: Countries with the Most Sustainable Energy Policies

Which countries are able to balance prosperity and sustainability in their energy mixes? See the countries with the most sustainable energy policies.

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strongest energy policies index

Ranked: Countries With Most Sustainable Energy Policies

The sourcing and distribution of energy is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Just under one billion people still lack basic access to electricity, and many more connect to the grid through improvised wiring or live through frequent blackouts. On the flip side of the socioeconomic spectrum, a growing chorus of voices is pressuring governments and corporations to power the global economy in a more sustainable way.

Today’s visualization – using data from the World Energy Council (WEC) – ranks countries based on their mix of policies for tackling issues like energy security and environmental sustainability.

The Energy Trilemma Index

According to WEC, there are three primary policy areas that form the “trilemma”:

1. Energy Security
A nation’s capacity to meet current and future energy demand reliably, and bounce back swiftly from system shocks with minimal disruption to supply. This dimension covers the effectiveness of management of domestic and external energy sources, as well as the reliability and resilience of energy infrastructure.

2. Energy Equity
A country’s ability to provide universal access to reliable, affordable, and abundant energy for domestic and commercial use. This dimension captures basic access to electricity and clean cooking fuels and technologies, access to prosperity-enabling levels of energy consumption, and affordability of electricity, gas, and fuel.

3. Environmental Sustainability
The transition of a country’s energy system towards mitigating and avoiding environmental harm and climate change impacts. This dimension focuses on productivity and efficiency of generation, transmission and distribution, decarbonization, and air quality.

Using the dimensions above, a score out of 100 is generated. Here’s a complete ranking that shows which countries have the most sustainable energy policies:

RankCountryTrilemma ScoreLetter Grade*
1🇨🇭 Switzerland85.8AAA
2🇸🇪 Sweden85.2AAA
3🇩🇰 Denmark84.7AAA
4🇬🇧 United Kingdom81.5AAA
5🇫🇮 Finland81.1AAA
6🇫🇷 France80.8AAA
7🇦🇹 Austria80.7AAA
8🇱🇺 Luxembourg80.4BAA
9🇩🇪 Germany79.4AAA
10🇳🇿 New Zealand79.4AAA
11🇳🇴 Norway79.3CAA
12🇸🇮 Slovenia79.2AAA
13🇨🇦 Canada78.0AAC
14🇳🇱 Netherlands77.8BAB
15🇺🇸 United States77.5AAB
16🇨🇿 Czech Republic77.4AAB
17🇺🇾 Uruguay77.2ABA
18🇪🇸 Spain77.0BAA
19🇭🇺 Hungary76.8AAB
20🇮🇹 Italy76.8BAA
21🇮🇸 Iceland76.2BAB
22🇱🇻 Latvia76.1ABA
23🇸🇰 Slovakia75.6ABA
24🇧🇪 Belgium75.2BAA
25🇮🇪 Ireland75.2CAA
26🇷🇴 Romania75.1ABA
27🇭🇷 Croatia74.9ABA
28🇦🇺 Australia74.7BAB
29🇵🇹 Portugal74.0BBB
30🇪🇪 Estonia73.8BAB
31🇯🇵 Japan73.8CAB
32🇮🇱 Israel73.3CAB
33🇲🇹 Malta72.9DAA
34🇭🇰 Hong Kong (China)72.5DAB
35🇦🇷 Argentina72.4BAB
36🇱🇹 Lithuania72.4CBA
37🇰🇷 South Korea71.7BAC
38🇨🇷 Costa Rica71.6CBA
39🇧🇷 Brazil71.6ABA
40🇲🇽 Mexico71.3ABB
41🇧🇬 Bulgaria71.3BBB
42🇷🇺 Russia71.2AAC
43🇸🇬 Singapore71.2DAB
44🇻🇪 Venezuela70.3ABB
45🇪🇨 Ecuador69.6ABB
46🇵🇦 Panama69.5CBA
47🇬🇷 Greece69.5CBA
48🇨🇱 Chile69.4BBB
49🇨🇴 Colombia69.3BCA
50🇲🇺 Mauritius69.0CBB
51🇲🇾 Malaysia68.5BBC
52🇦🇪 U.A.E.68.3BAD
53🇵🇱 Poland68.3BBB
54🇨🇾 Cyprus67.9DBB
55🇶🇦 Qatar67.9AAD
56🇧🇳 Brunei67.7CBC
57🇦🇿 Azerbaijan67.7BBB
58🇵🇪 Peru66.8ACB
59🇰🇿 Kazakhstan66.6BBC
60🇦🇲 Armenia66.3CBB
61🇺🇦 Ukraine66.0ACC
62🇸🇻 El Salvador66.0BCA
63🇴🇲 Oman65.5BAD
64🇲🇪 Montenegro65.4CBB
65🇰🇼 Kuwait65.2CAD
66🇹🇷 Turkey64.9CBC
67🇵🇾 Paraguay64.7DBA
68🇹🇭 Thailand64.6CBC
69🇮🇩 Indonesia64.1BCC
70🇷🇸 Serbia63.8BBC
71🇲🇰 North Macedonia63.7CBC
72🇨🇳 China63.7BBD
73🇦🇱 Albania63.7DBA
74🇮🇷 Iran63.6ABD
75🇹🇳 Tunisia63.6BBC
76🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago63.3CAD
77🇬🇪 Georgia63.1CBC
78🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia62.8CAD
79🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herz.62.1BBC
80🇧🇭 Bahrain62.1BAD
81🇱🇧 Lebanon61.6DAC
82🇩🇿 Algeria61.3CBD
83🇲🇦 Morocco61.1CCC
84🇧🇴 Bolivia60.4BCC
85🇱🇰 Sri Lanka60.1BCB
86🇦🇴 Angola60.0ADB
87🇪🇬 Egypt59.9BBD
88🇬🇹 Guatemala59.7BCC
89🇬🇦 Gabon59.5CBD
90🇳🇦 Namibia59.1CDA
91🇻🇳 Vietnam58.9ACD
92🇿🇦 South Africa58.9DBD
93🇮🇶 Iraq58.9BBD
94🇵🇭 Philippines58.6BCC
95🇯🇴 Jordan58.5DBC
96🇧🇼 Botswana57.7DCC
97🇩🇴 Dominican Republic57.6DBB
98🇯🇲 Jamaica56.9DBC
99🇹🇯 Tajikistan55.7DCC
100🇭🇳 Honduras55.3DCC
101🇸🇿 Eswatini55.1DCC
102🇳🇮 Nicaragua54.5DCC
103🇬🇭 Ghana52.9CDC
104🇲🇲 Myanmar51.9BDB
105🇰🇭 Cambodia51.6CDC
106🇰🇪 Kenya51.3BDB
107🇲🇩 Moldova51.2DCD
108🇲🇳 Mongolia51.1DCD
109🇮🇳 India50.3BDD
110🇵🇰 Pakistan49.6CDD
111🇨🇮 Côte d’Ivoire49.3BDC
112🇿🇲 Zambia47.8CDB
113🇨🇲 Cameroon47.4BDD
114🇧🇩 Bangladesh47.1DDC
115🇿🇼 Zimbabwe46.0CDC
116🇲🇷 Mauritania45.6BDD
117🇳🇵 Nepal44.3DDC
118🇸🇳 Senegal43.4DDD
119🇹🇿 Tanzania42.5DDC
120🇪🇹 Ethiopia42.3DDC
121🇲🇬 Madagascar42.2CDC
122🇲🇿 Mozambique41.4DDC
123🇳🇬 Nigeria40.7BDD
124🇲🇼 Malawi39.1DDB
125🇧🇯 Benin36.3DDD
126🇹🇩 Chad33.8DDD
127🇨🇩 D.R.C.33.8DDC
128🇳🇪 Niger30.0DDD

*The letter grade represents national performance in three dimensions. The first letter represents Security, the second letter represents Equity, the third letter represents the Environmental Sustainability. The top grade is AAA, the lowest is DDD.

Highs, Lows, and Outliers

Every country has unique circumstances — from strategic energy reserves to green energy ambitions — that shape their domestic energy policies. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more interesting situations around the world.

Sweden

sweden energy trilemma index

Qatar

qatar energy trilemma index

Singapore

singapore energy trilemma index

Dominican Republic

dominican republic energy trilemma index

Niger

niger energy trilemma index

Global Energy Outlook

Achieving the balance of prosperity and sustainability is a goal of nearly every country, but it takes stability and the right mix of policies to get the job done.

The fact that many trilemma scores are improving is an indicator that the world’s patchwork of energy policies are slowly moving in the right direction.

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