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“Our planet is drowning under a torrent of trash” – International Day of Zero Waste

“Our planet is drowning under a torrent of trash” – International Day of Zero Waste
According to UNEP and UN-Habitat, only 61–62 percent of global municipal solid waste (MSW) is being managed in controlled facilities.

Households, small businesses, and public service providers generate between 2.1 billion and 2.3 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) annually – from packaging and electronics to plastics and food. However, global waste management services are ill-equipped to handle this, with 2.7 billion people lacking access to solid waste collection and only 61–62 percent of municipal solid waste being managed in controlled facilities. Humanity must act urgently to address the waste crisis as unsustainable production and consumption practices are driving the planet toward destruction.

On December 14, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution at its seventy-seventh session to proclaim March 30 as International Day of Zero Waste, to be observed annually and promote zero-waste initiatives at all levels, contributing to advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Türkiye put forward the resolution and 105 other countries joined in sponsoring it. It follows other resolutions focused on waste, including “End plastic pollution: towards an internationally legally binding instrument”, adopted at the United Nations Environment Assembly on March 2, 2022.

“Overconsumption is killing us”

The second annual International Day of Zero Waste highlights the critical need to bolster waste management globally and the importance of sustainable production and consumption practices.

According to UNEP and UN-Habitat, increasing resource use is the main driver of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution.

Without urgent action, municipal solid waste generation will balloon to 3.8 billion tonnes annually by 2050.

Our planet is drowning under a torrent of trash. Every year, humanity produces more than 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste. Rotting food, plastic bottles, chemical-laced electronics, and much more are tossed away without regard for our water, land, and air. As trash decays, it spews planet-warming greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, poisons our water and soil, and inflicts illness, disease, and even death among people around the world. Overconsumption is killing us. Humanity needs an intervention, said António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Bolstering waste management and upstream solutions

Improving collection, recycling, and other forms of sound waste management remains an urgent priority.

But to solve the waste crisis, humanity must treat waste as a resource. This entails reducing waste generation and following the lifecycle approach.

Resources should be reused or recovered as much as possible, and products should be designed to be durable and require fewer and low-impact materials. Upstream solutions like these can minimize pollution of air, land, and water and decrease the extraction of precious and limited natural resources.

Achieving zero-waste societies requires action at all levels from all stakeholders.

Consumers can change consumption habits and reuse and repair products as much as possible before properly disposing of them.

Governments, communities, industries, and other stakeholders must improve financing and policymaking, especially as the waste crisis disproportionately impacts the marginalized, urban poor, women, and youth.

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