Special Report

These Are the World’s Biggest Producers of Waste

The world is drowning in trash, and the waste generation rates are only increasing, according to the World Bank. Due to population growth and urban areas growth, the amount of trash countries produce is only expected to rise — by some estimates as much as 70% between 2016 and 2050.

While much of the focus is on individuals and families and the amount of trash they generate, residential trash is only a fraction of the garbage produced by certain industries.

Municipal solid waste management (MSW), which is waste generated from companies, buildings, institutions, small businesses, houses, and yards, often comprises less than 5% of the total amount of waste produced in a country.

Between 30% and 35% of the total amount of generated waste in most developed countries is attributed to building sector activities such as building construction, renovation, and demolition processes, according to the official EU statistical data.

In many countries on our list, the construction industry is often the largest culprit, generating more than 90% of the total waste produced in a country. China is a notable exception, where more than half of the waste is agricultural or industrial.

Many countries have recognized the importance of properly and safely disposing of trash and have passed laws regulating how cities and corporations source and get rid of the waste they are producing. Some developing countries are struggling because governments often lack the funding to solve waste management challenges. Many are focusing on advocating recycling. In the United States, for example, some states will even pay you to recycle.

Click here to read about the countries that produce the most waste.

To identify the largest producers of waste, 24/7 Tempo calculated the special waste and regular municipal solid waste per capita produced by each country, using data from the World Bank’s “What a Waste” global database, last updated in September of 2018. We summed for each country the metric tons (or tonnes) of waste in the latest year for which data was available in the special categories of agricultural waste, construction and demolition, e waste, hazardous waste, industrial waste, medical waste, and the total municipal solid waste (msw).

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