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Waste Generation & Economic Growth

Talking about climate change and other environmental issues might sometimes sound utopic and like a wasted effort for many people. However, the discussion of these themes has intensified lately from young environmental activists from different parts of the world, such as Greta Thunberg (Sweden), Isra Hirsi (USA), Autumm Peltier (Canada), Leisein Mutunkei (Kenya), Leah Namugerwa (Uganda), Saoi O’Connor (Ireland), amongst others. Despite the mass reaction of the 2019 Global Climate Strike and advances with the European Green Deal, there is still a clear lack of collective ownership within Europe, along with the rest of the world, to mitigate the environmental impacts of development and population growth. Waste management issues seems to be one of the biggest concerns of environmentalists and communities. The negative effects include an increase in plastic consumption, pollution, flooding due to clogged drainage systems, transmission of diseases from landfills, respiratory diseases from waste incineration, and harm to animals.

According to ‘What a Waste 2.0 Report’ (2018) from the World Bank, the institution estimates that the waste generation will increase from 2.01 billion tonnes in 2016 to 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050. High income countries generate a total of 34% of the world’s waste, which is projected to increase 19% by 2050. In 2018, Ireland generated more than 14 million tonnes of waste across all sectors. The latest report released by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that Ireland is far behind on the EU recycling targets. Waste management in Ireland has shifted considerably from mainly landfill to policy that favours incineration.

So, what is our role as citizens to tackle these aspects from the climate crisis?

It may seem unrealistic, but we have a lot to contribute to this battle. If we want to guarantee a healthy and fair future for next generations, actions must be taken now. We must break the vicious link between exponential economic growth and waste generation, by joining the extremes of this line and transitioning to a green ‘Circular Economy’.  This will happen once we have adequate policies towards a sustainable economy, and once we start reconsidering our daily actions in favour to an environment that we want to leave for future generations.

The actions that you can do are simple: separate your waste correctly and don’t forget that recycling items should be clean, dry and loose (if you have any doubt on how to do it, contact your waste management company); use civic amenity sites or in store drop off locations (WEE recycle points) to bring electronics, batteries and other hazardous waste; practice upcycling when possible; avoid purchasing single use plastics and other non-recyclable materials. Give preference to compostable items; contact charity shops or online platforms to donate unwanted items; support businesses that are moving towards more sustainable waste practices; give preference to locally produced goods and services; and the last but not least, support and join community groups that help to transform your town into a better place to live. We are all in this together.