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Australia identified as one of few countries disproportionately responsible for high waste generation

A study conducted by UK-based consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft identified Australia among several countries that are disproportionately responsible for the highest levels of waste generation.

The Waste Generation and Recycling Indices puts the US as the world’s top producer of waste and one of the worst of any industrialised nation for managing its rubbish. But Australia is high up on the list too.

The US represents 4 per cent of the global population, but it generates 12 per cent of global municipal waste. While Australia represents less than one per cent of the global population and of global municipal waste, its percentage of waste is higher than its population.

Along with the US and Australia, the highest risk countries in the Waste Generation Index feature the Netherlands, Canada, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France.

Verisk Maplecroft measured the waste generation and recycling performance of 194 countries to uncover a global picture of how countries are dealing with the waste they produce.

The research calculates that more than 2.1 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) are generated globally each year – enough to fill 822,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, which would stretch 41,000 kms if laid out end-to-end.

However, only 16 per cent, 323 million tonnes, of this is recycled each year, while 46 per cent, 950 million tonnes, is disposed of unsustainably, Verisk Maplecroft indicated.

Although Australia is listed being disproportionately responsible for high levels of waste generation, it sits well under the US.

The US creates three times the global average of waste according to the Waste Generation Index, which captures per capita rates of MSW, plastic, food and hazardous waste production.

It shows that US citizens and businesses are the largest contributors to the waste problem across the four indicators measured. At 773kg per head, the country generates 12 per cent of global MSW – about 239 million tonnes – while only accounting for 4 per cent of the world’s population.

In contrast, China and India make up more than 36 per cent of the global population, but generate 27 per cent of global municipal waste.

American citizens produce more three times as much waste as their Chinese counterparts and seven times more than the people of Ethiopia, the lowest risk country in the index.