In the UK, our annual waste generation is over 300 tonnes a year
The world is addicted to plastic and the statistics are staggering. It is estimated that there are currently 6.3 billion tonnes of waste plastic in the natural environment and in landfill, with this number set to increase to 12 billion by 2050. A million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, adding up to over half a trillion every year. And a great deal of the plastic waste our society generates daily is single-use, with an estimated 50% of all plastic generated being used once and thrown away.
We are all familiar with the images of the resultant pollution – dead and dying seabirds, entangled turtles, huge islands of floating rubbish – and they offer us evidence of environmental degradation at its most visceral. However, there is an associated environmental issue, nearly invisible to the naked eye: microplastics. Some of its effects we know about, some we are just beginning to discover, and others will probably become clear over the coming decades…
Given that the advent of the mass production of plastics wasn’t until the 1950s, we will only begin to see the long-term effects of plastic pollution on the human body in generations alive today, and we may well be on the brink of a public health crisis. We believe it is now critical that we come together with a global consensus and embrace alternative waste management technologies, in order to begin to stem the flow of plastics and other harmful waste into the environment.
The serious environmental and public health problems created by waste demands an urgent solution, and a huge area of potential growth for businesses with expertise in this sector. Waste-to-energy sites can process household waste, including non-recyclable plastics, into sustainable fuels – helping to divert thousands of tonnes of rubbish from landfill and reduce national carbon footprints. A paradigm shift from linear to circular economies is already beginning. From Belgrade to Beijing, Addis Ababa to Atlanta, we are seeing the widespread development of waste-to-energy plants and initiatives as a strategy for solving the waste crisis and reducing carbon emissions.