Each year, the world creates more than 2 billion tonnes of waste. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), high-income countries, such as the UK, are responsible for producing 34% of global waste production, despite making up only 16% of the population.
In such countries, we often do not see the effects of our waste, we have a mentality that lets us believe that once we throw things away they cease to exist. If only that were the case… the reality is that dumpsites and landfill are one of the largest sources of human-generated methane. The problem is only set to get worse because as income levels increase, so does the rate of waste, and by 2050 low- and middle-income countries are predicted to have increase waste rates of 40% and high-income countries are predicted to increase their rate of waste by 19%.
The World Bank estimates that a third of the waste that we generate is not properly managed, and is instead dumped in open, unmanaged areas. Waste can affect our health, it costs us money to manage, it definitely damages the environment, and it’s pretty ugly to look at.
All in all, the statistics are enough to make you want to run away to a remote cabin and never look at a piece of packaging or worn-out pair of jeans ever again. But fear not! There are steps that we can all take to reduce our impact, and there are people that have already started the fight against waste that we can all get on board with.
Keep Britain Tidy
From the 11th to the 27th of September, Keep Britain Tidy has been running a national campaign to clean up our environment. With litter costing the UK millions of pounds to clean up every year, their aim is to end waste, improve public spaces, and educate future generations. Using their online resources, you can host a clean up or pledge to pick. They also have guidelines available to keep your litter picking coronavirus safe.
Back in June, when we were all locked in, working in our pyjamas and attempting to follow an at-home workout routine but really just bingeing Netflix, our CEO, Olivia, hosted an IGTV Live with Lizzie Outside (pop over to the Riley Studio Instagram page to have a watch). Lizzie Outside is on a simple mission: to clean up the planet. She created Planet Patrol to combine activities like paddle boarding, yoga, and running, with litter picking and data collection. The idea is that anyone can download their app, pick litter, and gather photographic evidence of brands, types, and locations of litter. This data can then be processed to hold corporations, that are the top polluters, accountable. The data also logs where the biggest problem areas are so that targeted solutions can be put in place.
That awful P-word that never leads the conversation in a positive direction. Plastic is one of the most problematic items of waste and 8.3billion metric tonnes has already been created. A figure that is expected to double over the next 20 years, and quadruple by 2050. So how to tackle the beast? Well, City to Sea is a non-profit organisation that was set up to campaign against plastic pollution at the source by reducing its demand. City to Sea have created a list of the top 10 single-use plastic items that they find by on beaches or by rivers. Single-use plastic items are reported to make up over half of global plastic production, and they include everyday items such as: plastic bottles and lids, cigarette butts, period products, and cotton bud sticks.
How to fight waste
Inspired to fight waste? To be part of the solution, here’s some things you can do:
- Get involved with Keep Britain Tidy by pledging to pick.
- Download the Planet Patrol app and help pick litter and gather data.
- Read City to Sea’s ‘12 Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution’ guide, their ‘Plastic Free Shopping’ guide, and their ‘Plastic-Free Periods’.
- Spread the word! Tell your friends and family out how waste is a problem and how they can fight it too!