We Produce a Lot of Waste Over the Year, but the Holidays Are When We Waste the Most

Most of us will chuck out an extra five bags of garbage over Christmas.

Photo Credit: S_Photo/Shutterstock

The average household produces more than 1.1 tons of waste every year, and it’s during the festive period that we waste the most. We create 30 percent more waste than usual over Christmas—everything from cards and envelopes, wrapping paper, boxes from biscuits and chocolates, shopping bags, wine bottles and toy packaging. Americans spend around $3.2 billion every year on wrapping paper, mot of which will just end up in the trash. On average, each household will chuck out an extra five bags of waste over Christmas, adding up to 812,000 tons of refuse every year.

Overall recycling rates are increasing, but so is our population. Countries around the world are generating large amounts of waste as their populations grow and their economies expand. According to a recent analysis by eCO2 Greetings, the amount of waste generated by urban residents is estimated to have nearly doubled from 1.4 pounds per person per day 10 years ago to 2.6 pounds in 2016.

On a yearly basis, humans worldwide have gone from generating 750 tons of waste to 1.5 billion tons in just a decade.

The World Bank has reported that the amount of urban waste being produced is growing faster than the rate of urbanization. In fact, by 2025 there will be 1.4 billion more people living in cities worldwide, with each person producing an average of 3.1 pounds of municipal solid waste (MSW) per day—more than double the current average of 1.4 pounds per day. Annual worldwide urban waste is estimated to more than triple by 2025, from 0.75 to 2.5 billion tons.

The top producers of waste are small island nations: 

  1. Kuwait
  2. Antigua and Barbuda
  3. St. Kitts and Nevis
  4. Guyana
  5. Sri Lanka

Kuwait lacks proper landfills to dispose of all its municipal waste, while in places such as Antigua, Barbados and St. Kitts, a large majority of waste is accumulated due to tourism. What is clear is that none of these countries have the necessary infrastructure for proper sanitation and waste removal. In fact, recent reports suggest that more than half of the world's population does not have access to regular waste collection.

On the flip-side, the more urbanized and industrialized a country becomes, the more waste it produces.

The top waste producers in the developed world are:

  1. New Zealand
  2. Ireland
  3. Norway
  4. Switzerland
  5. United States

If you're giving gifts this year, check out AlterNet's 2017 Ethical Holiday Shopping Guide and 9 Retailers Who Got an 'F' Rating for Failing to Take Action on Dangerous Chemicals in Consumer Products. And when you go shopping, remember to take along your reusable shopping bags to avoid taking home new paper or plastic bags from the store. If you're wrapping gifts, use recycled wrapping paper or newsprint and save used wrapping paper for next year.

No matter where you live, make this holiday season a less wasteful one by consuming less and remembering to recycle, reduce and reuse.

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Laura Brothers is a writer based in Milton Keynes, England.