November-December 2018 – New Internationalist magazine - issue #516 – digital.newint.com.au
The dirt on waste
Modern life is rubbish: we generate 2bn tonnes of municipal solid waste per year globally. So what do we do about our throwaway society?
Waste management companies in the West inevitably find it more profitable to landfill or burn than to recycle. Recyclable scrap looks for the best markets and often heads off to countries with huge waste management problems of their own.
In Australia, recycling companies have built up stockpiles of thousands of tonnes of collected glass waiting to be recycled. Why? Because imported new glass bottles are cheaper.
Meanwhile, there are also many creative uses of the term recycling. Sweden used to claim a near 100 per cent recycling rate because it regarded the energy generated from burning rubbish as recycling. And Australian waste companies have been saying they were recycling when trucking construction waste across state borders where it would end up as landfill.
Do we dare to imagine an economic system in which production had democratic oversight so that we only produce what we need, sustainably, rather than the current wasteful and capricious corporate cycles?
This edition’s Country Profile takes us to Vietnam, where – despite the uninterrupted rule of the Communist Party since 1975 – leftist economics have given way to massive foreign investment and a booming local private sector. But the country remains a harshly authoritarian police state.