Across much of Asia the monsoon rains have arrived. They bring cool relief as each drop of rain rejuvenates parched gardens, reviving the dry and dusty trees offering precious shade in our concrete mega cities.
This relief, however, is often short-lived. In many cities around the region, water is not absorbed due to heavily built-up urban areas, choking the rivers, estuaries, streams, lakes, and wetlands that act as natural water channels of the urban watershed. As a result, the somber reality of conserving nature and optimizing resources looms with more urgency than ever before.
Not long ago, development priorities swerved toward promoting the so-called “green economy.” The Sustainable Development Goals further strengthened that momentum by articulating goals and targets to guide environmentally-sensitive and equitable growth.
The journey is complicated by rapidly dwindling natural resources from unsustainable consumption patterns as countries urbanize and grow wealthier. A direct result is continuous generation of waste.
Even if consumption patterns are altered and waste generation minimized, waste creation will never cease.
Current global waste generation is at about 1.3 billion tons per year and expected to increase to approximately 2.2 billion tons by 2025. Over the next 15 years, per capita waste generation rates are expected to climb from 1.2 kg per person to 1.42 kg.
OECD countries contribute almost half the world's trash. East Asia and the Pacific region add one-fifth, while Africa and South Asia produce the least waste.
In both rich and poor countries, about 59% goes into landfills, leaving a growing share of scarce and valuable land unproductive. Organic trash, food we or animals eat, and horticultural waste makes up about half of global solid waste. Paper and plastic represent 27%.
Pollution from trash dumping in waterways and on land spreads food and water-borne disease like hepatitis B and C, dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever, among others.
There is however, a silver lining to this “brown economy.” Waste can be an asset. Not making the most of it is a missed opportunity.