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Waste and pollution

As countries develop and consumption increases so does the amount of waste per capita, and pollution becomes a greater problem. There are global, national and local strategies in place to reduce levels of waste and minimise impact on the environment.

Global waste production

The amount and type of waste produced varies between countries.

MEDCs [MEDC: A More Economically Developed Country (MEDC) has high levels of development based on economic indicators such as gross domestic product (the country's income). ] have higher levels of consumption, so many produce more waste than LEDCs [LEDC: A Less Economically Developed Country (LEDC) has low levels of development, based on economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (the country's income). ]. Ireland and the USA produce over 700 kg of waste per person per year. In LEDCs the figure is around 150 kg per person per year. This difference is due to different levels of consumption; it is also more common to reuse items in LEDCs.

As a country becomes more wealthy, the demand for consumer items increases. This means that items are replaced more frequently - leading to larger quantities of waste. For example, mobile phones and computers that still work may be discarded for a newer version.

In LEDCs waste production is lower because:

  • Less is bought because people are typically on lower incomes
  • Less packaging is used on products
  • Disposable items (eg razors, plastic plates and nappies) are used less
  • Lower literacy levels means there is less production of written material

Back to Wasting resources index

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