Outlook

Migration towards cities boosts waste production

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Alarm by the CNR: in cities, 3 billion people produce 1.2 kg waste per head, twice as much as 10 years ago.

Metropolis and garbage, an indissoluble couple, now becoming a world-scale emergency. Cities today host three billion people, who produce 1.2 kg waste per capita every day, while 10 years ago they produced just half as much, 0.67 kg. This is the picture described by the XXI International Conference on solid urban waste management, organized by CNR and Iupac Chemrawn Committee (Chemical Research Applied to World Needs) in Rome.

About 300 experts from developed and developing countries are participating in the conference, discussing the transformation of waste into useful resources for the community, in a series of debates and meetings with institutions, organizations, policy makers and companies. A particular focus is laid on the possible contribution of scientific and technological research to promote a virtuous cycle based on the “3 R’s”: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.

Since 2010, for the first time in history, most of the world’s population lives in cities, and the trend is growing, explains the CNR. A hundred years ago, 2 out of 10 people lived in urban areas, in 1990 it was less than 4 out of 10, and by 2050 estimates say it will be 7 out of 10. The quantity of solid urban waste is increasing even more rapidly than that: from 0.68 billion tons produced by cities worldwide 10 years ago to 1.3 billion today, and 2.2 billion tons are expected by 2025 (1.42 kg per head).

The production of solid urban waste varies considerably from metropolis to metropolis: “New York has a solid waste production rate that is 19 times higher than that of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh – explains Mario Malinconico, researcher at the Institute for Polymers, Compounds and Biomaterials of the CNR – while its energy consumption rate per capita is 28 times higher than that of the Indian city of Kolkata, and its water consumption rate is 23 times as high as that of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. In developing countries, on the other hand, a large part of the population has no access to minimum resources, sometimes due to management problems: in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo, about 70% of drinking water goes wasted, while Hong Kong produces 14 thousand tons solid waste every day.”

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