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Which Countries Are Best Handling Waste Management

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RAJA, Europe’s No. 1 packaging supplier, recently studied which countries are winning the war on municipal waste—an important study given that global waste is predicted to grow by 70 percent as soon as 2050. RAJA explored the municipal waste of 29 countries over five years to find out how they handle their waste, and whether they have been able to reduce it year-on-year. You can check out the study yourself here but here is what I found to be interesting:

  • The world leader in recovered waste is currently Switzerland, recovering 100 percent of their municipal waste. However, this is not as idyllic as you might think. While some of their waste recovery is through recycling and composting (material recovery), their main method is incineration with energy, which is placed lower down on the hierarchy of recoverable methods.
  • In terms of material recovery—which is solely to do with recycling and composting—Germany, Slovenia, and Australia are paving the way, recovering an average of 67 percent, 62 percent and 58 percent of waste through these methods over the last five years.
  • Germany now recycles almost half (49 percent) of their waste (having improved year on year), in part because of the success of their recycling program which relies on strong government policies and citizens that embrace it.
  • When it comes to composting, Austria is leading the way, recovering over 33 percent of their waste this way in their most recently available year (2018).
  • Some good news: 23 of the 29 countries looked at have had a reduction in their landfilled waste over the course of five years, though ten had improved less than 5 percent.
  • Turkey has the worst reputation for sending waste to landfill, at an average of 93 percent. This has improved from 99 percent in 2013, to 88 percent in 2018—but still leaves much to be done. Greece follows closely behind with an average of 83 percent, having only improved by 4 percent over that course of time.
  • USA, Germany and Japan are the biggest producers in regard to “waste per head.”
  • Which country is minimizing waste while also doing the best job at recovering their waste? Japan came in first, thanks to being the third lowest waste producer and boasting 93 percent recovery rates. The runners up were Belgium and Sweden.

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