Why the World Can’t Afford to Waste its Waste

As the world’s population swells and individuals buy more goods, garbage is becoming a monstrous problem. Landfills overflow with trash, but also harbor riches, such as copper and gold. Gleaning these valuable materials can give limited resources a second life and cut the volume of waste.

Why the world can′t afford to waste its waste _ Global Ideas _ DW.COM _ 08_1

Garbage endures. In developed countries, each person discards hundreds of kilograms of trash every year and most of this is amassed in ever-growing landfills. In developing countries, swelling dumps increasingly compromise environments and the health of people. One way to reduce the size of landfills around the world is to sort garbage from recyclable materials. Plastic can be salvaged and made into bottles or even fleece coats. Household appliances and electronics, meanwhile, are a treasure trove of costly materials including copper and gold. So far, “urban mining” is struggling to be cost-effective since separating and extracting recyclable materials is so labor intensive, but environmentalists hope that by changing consumers’ mindsets, they can create efficient systems for reusing finite resources and reducing waste in the process. Click here for the original Deutsche Welle article.

Guiding Questions

  • What are some novel uses for materials in your recycling bin?
  • What happens to old electronics when people in your community dispose of them?

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