11 TREND: Us­ing De­sign for a Waste-free, Energy-ef­fi­cient Fu­ture

Southern Innovator - - WASTE & RECYCLING -

As the world con­tin­ues to be­come a ma­jor­ity ur­ban place in the 21st cen­tury, the is­sue of waste will be­come even more vex­ing. Just as peo­ple move to ur­ban ar­eas to im­prove their life chances and stan­dard of liv­ing, the things that they use to im­prove their stan­dard of liv­ing – con­sumer elec­tron­ics, cloth­ing, higher-qual­ity foods, fur­ni­ture – all gen­er­ate waste. Much of this waste, as a re­sult of cur­rent pro­duc­tion meth­ods, pro­duces toxic waste that ends up in mu­nic­i­pal dump sites or is thrown away to clut­ter streets and greenspaces. toxic waste cre­ated in the de­vel­oped coun­tries of­ten is shipped to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, where it is re­cy­cled or dis­posed of, some­times us­ing child labour and in vi­o­la­tion of ap­pro­pri­ate en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards.

A World Bank study projects a 70 per cent global in­crease in ur­ban solid waste, with de­vel­op­ing coun­tries fac­ing the great­est chal­lenges. This re­port es­ti­mates that the amount of mu­nic­i­pal solid waste (MSW) will rise from the cur­rent 1.3 bil­lion tonnes per year to 2.2 bil­lion tonnes per year by 2025. Much of the in­crease will come in rapidly grow­ing cities in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

By 2050, two out of ev­ery three peo­ple on the planet will live in a city. This will place un­prece­dented stress on the world’s nat­u­ral re­sources if things do not change.

As liv­ing stan­dards rise and the num­ber of mid­dle­class con­sumers grows in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and emerg­ing mar­kets, it is clear that repli­cat­ing the waste­ful con­sump­tion pat­terns of the de­vel­oped world will do ir­repara­ble harm to the planet. At present, the world’s wealth­i­est 20 per cent of peo­ple con­sume 75 per cent of the planet’s re­sources (World Bank).

“We are liv­ing as if we have an ex­tra planet at our dis­posal. We are us­ing 50 per cent more re­sources than the Earth can sus­tain­ably pro­duce and un­less we change course, that num­ber will grow fast: by 2030 even two plan­ets will not be enough,” said Jim Leape, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of WWF In­ter­na­tional.

The Liv­ing Planet Re­port uses the global Liv­ing Planet In­dex to mea­sure changes in the health of the planet’s ecosys­tems by track­ing 9,000 pop­u­la­tions of more than 2,600 species. The global In­dex shows al­most a 30 per cent de­crease since 1970, with the trop­ics the hard­est hit – where there has been a 60 per cent de­cline in less than 40 years. Just as bio­di­ver­sity is on a down­ward trend, the earth’s eco­log­i­cal foot­print, one of the other key in­di­ca­tors used in the re­port, il­lus­trates how the planet’s de­mand on nat­u­ral re­sources has be­come un­sus­tain­able.

In or­der to cal­cu­late what is a sus­tain­able use of re­sources per per­son, the eco­log­i­cal foot­print was de­vised. Given the cur­rent world pop­u­la­tion and avail­able land area, an eco­log­i­cal foot­print of less than 1.8 global hectares per per­son makes a coun­try’s re­source de­mands glob­ally repli­ca­ble. The top10 coun­tries with the big­gest eco­log­i­cal foot­print per per­son­are: aus­tralia, bel­gium, canada, den­mark, ire­land, Kuwait, Nether­lands, Qatar, United Arab Emi­rates and the United States of Amer­ica. Cit­i­zens of the United States are con­sum­ing re­sources at a rate that, if done by ev­ery per­son on earth, would re­quire 4.1 earth-sized plan­ets.

Wealthy coun­tries have an eco­log­i­cal foot­print five times larger than that of low-in­come coun­tries.

“We can cre­ate a pros­per­ous fu­ture that pro­vides food, wa­ter and energy for the 9 or per­haps 10 bil­lion peo­ple who will be shar­ing the planet in 2050,” added Leape. “So­lu­tions lie in such ar­eas as re­duc­ing waste, smarter wa­ter man­age­ment and us­ing re­new­able sources of energy that are clean and abun­dant – such as wind and sun­light.”

The world needs to build a gen­uine green econ­omy to tackle these chal­lenges. A green econ­omy tends to be seen as an econ­omy that pro­duces goods and ser­vices with an en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fit. And the energy sources for this green econ­omy need to change. United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-gen­eral Ban Ki-moon has called for a dou­bling of re­new­able energy in the mix of energy sources by 2030.

Read on to find in­no­va­tors build­ing a green econ­omy that works and learn from their ex­pe­ri­ence.

In ad­di­tion, the in­fo­graph­ics on pages 6 to 7 and on pages 28 to 29 at­tempt to paint a pic­ture of the chal­lenges and of­fer a new way of look­ing at things to find bet­ter so­lu­tions.

Sources: World Bank, WWF In­ter­na­tional, Liv­ing Planet Re­port.

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