Waste management: looking at a global challenge

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Waste management: looking at a global challenge

July 17, 2018

The disposal of waste is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing cities around the world


photos by Kadir van Lohuizen

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"The purpose principle – missions give businesses strength"

In 2015, the UN launched its sustainable development goals program to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The goals are a clear signal and a call to action for business.

The UN's sustainable development goals (SDG) program explicitly calls on businesses to help solve the world's environmental challenges by 2030 by integrating change, innovation and creativity into their practices and initiatives. The manifesto encourages companies – and especially the large and transnational ones – "to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle."

Waste management is a global issue with local impact and substantially reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse is a core concern of the UN goals aimed at reducing the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities. These images set out the impact of waste: Can business help solve issues like these by 2030?


Scavenging for plastic: Located in Lagos, Nigeria, the Olusosun landfill is Africa' largest. Approximately 1,000 scavengers live on-site, sorting through the waste for scrap materials that can be sold on.


Reducing landfill: Tokyo only has one landfill site, but it has 48 incinerators and a well-organized recycling program. Other Japanese cities like Tochigi make big efforts to recycle plastic bottles as well.


A measured difference: Rush hour in Tokyo reveals a population density that produces less waste than New York City (NYC) – 12 million as opposed to 33 million tons. Households separate their waste to reduce landfill demands.


Metal makes money: In the Netherlands, most of Amsterdam's waste is incinerated. Metals are saved for further use. Scrapped cars are compacted into cubes – about 750,000 tons per year – and then reused or exported.


NYC is no.1 producer: It has a population of 20 million and is the world's biggest producer of waste – 33 million tons per year. This " canner" makes about $20 a day picking up cans for the 5¢ deposit each carries, although the practice is not strictly legal.


Trash transformation: The Covanta Delaware Valley resource recovery facility incinerates 1.2 million tons of NYC's waste annually, converting the energy from the heat into electricity via steam from water-cooling installations.

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