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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:
|Country||Daily Solid Waste (per capita)|
|United States||2.58 kg|
|United Kingdom||1.79 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.
Ranked: The Most Carbon-Intensive Sectors in the World
Comparing average Scope 1 emission intensities by sector according to an analysis done by S&P Global Inc.
Ranked: The Most Carbon-Intensive Sectors in the World
Ever wonder which sectors contribute the most to CO2 emissions around the world?
In this graphic, we explore the answers to that question by comparing average Scope 1 emission intensities by sector, according to an analysis done by S&P Global Inc.
Defining Scope 1 Emissions
Before diving into the data, it may be useful to understand what Scope 1 emissions entail.
Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by a company, such as their facilities and vehicles.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Scope 1 emissions can do a good job of highlighting a company’s environmental footprint because they represent the direct emissions related to manufacturing or creating a company’s products, whether they are tangible goods, digital software, or services.
Scope 2 and 3 emissions, on the other hand, encompass the indirect emissions associated with a company’s activities, including those from a company’s purchased electricity, leased assets, or investments.
Ranking the Carbon Giants
According to S&P Global’s analysis of 2019-2020 average emissions intensity by sector, utilities is the most carbon-intensive sector in the world, emitting a staggering 2,634 tonnes of CO2 per $1 million of revenue.
Materials and energy sectors follow behind, with 918 tonnes and 571 tonnes of CO2 emitted, respectively.
|Sector||Sector Explanation||Scope 1 CO2 emissions per $1M of revenue, 2019-2020|
|Utilities||Electric, gas, and water utilities and independent producers||2,634 tonnes|
|Materials||Chemicals, construction materials, packaging, metals, and mining||918 tonnes|
|Energy||Oil and gas exploration/production and energy equipment||571 tonnes|
|Industrials||Capital goods, commercial services, and transportation||194 tonnes|
|Consumer staples||Food, household goods, and personal products||90 tonnes|
|Consumer discretionary||Automobiles, consumer durables, apparel, and retailing||33 tonnes|
|Real estate||Real estate and real estate management||31 tonnes|
|Information technology||Software, technology hardware, and semiconductors||24 tonnes|
|Financials||Banks, insurance, and diversified financials||19 tonnes|
|Communication services||Telecommunication, media, and entertainment||9 tonnes|
|Health care||Health care equipment, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and life sciences||7 tonnes|
S&P Global also reveals some interesting insights when it comes to various industries within the materials sector, including:
- Cement manufacturing exhibits an extremely high level of Scope 1 emissions, emitting more than double the emissions from the utilities sector (5,415 tonnes of CO2 per $1M of revenue)
- Aluminum and steel production are also quite emission-intensive, emitting 1,421 and 1,390 tonnes respectively in 2019-2020
- Relatively lower-emission materials such as gold, glass, metals and paper products bring down the average emissions of the materials sector
Given these trends, a closer look at emission-intensive industries and sectors is necessary for our urgent need to decarbonize the global economy.
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