Covid-19 caused a boom in single-use plastics. Here’s how to fix it

WIRED, 3 January 2021


The pandemic has created more plastic waste at the same time as reducing rubbish collection. It's time we moved to a more sustainable, circular approach to waste management


We estimate that in 2016, the world generated 2.01bn tonnes of household waste per year. Waste generation is set to increase by more than 70 per cent, to 3.40bn tonnes, by 2050, more than double the estimated population growth rate, pointing to a real crisis.


In general, the volume of waste generation per capita increases as countries become more prosperous; the richer we are, the more we consume. But there seems to be a trend of decoupling between waste production and prosperity beyond a certain income level. High income countries (with average individual incomes above roughly $80,000 annually) are trending towards lower volumes of waste production and disposal. Countries such as South Korea, for example, have introduced financial incentives to reduce waste and recycle more. In 2021, we will have to maintain this trend – and extend it to lower-income countries.


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