Visualizing What the World Thinks About Waste

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Waste is a seemingly inseparable part of modern life.

In every industrialized society, humans consume many goods ranging from fresh food to automobiles. Inevitably, the majority of these goods are associated with waste that ends up clogging up our landfills, recycling systems, or even our oceans.

While garbage is widely universal, our perceptions on it vary from culture to culture – and when it comes to thinking about the future of our planet, these differences are important to think about.

Waste by Country

Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it shows global attitudes towards waste, recycling, and the environment.

Using data from select countries, here is the amount of solid waste created per capita on a daily basis:

Country Daily Solid Waste (per capita)
United States 2.58 kg
Canada 2.33 kg
Australia 2.23 kg
Germany 2.11 kg
United Kingdom 1.79 kg
Japan 1.71 kg
Mexico 1.24 kg
China 1.02 kg
India 0.34 kg

The U.S. leads the way in waste, but Western countries like Canada, Germany, and Australia are not far behind.

In India and China, waste numbers are low per capita right now, but they will continue to creep closer to Western figures as their economies further urbanize and increase consumption.

Global Attitudes Towards Waste

About 72% of plastic packaging does not get recovered at all, with 40% of all waste going to the landfill and 32% leaking out of the collection system (not collected, illegally dumped, or mismanaged).

With this in mind, who is responsible for reducing plastic packaging?

  • 20% of global respondents say that the companies producing packaged goods should be responsible
  • 16% say the government should be responsible
  • 10% say the companies selling packaged goods should be responsible
  • 8% say consumers
  • 37% say all the above are equally responsible
  • 9% say other, including having no opinion or being undecided

Interestingly, looking at individual countries reveals different perceptions than broader, global norms.

Attitudes Differ by Country

The infographic highlights the specific differences in attitudes towards waste between a multitude of countries.

While one expects big differences between countries like China and Germany, it can be shown that opinions on waste vary even between geographically proximate countries with similar levels of economic development. In South Korea and Japan, for example, waste attitudes differ considerably.

Per person, Japan produces 1.71 kg of solid waste per day, about 38% more than South Korea (1.24 kg).

South Koreans are more worried about the use of non-recyclable packaging, with 85% of people expressing concern about the issue. Roughly 60% of Japanese people felt the same.

To address this issue, 52% of Koreans said that they are willing to stop buying goods that have non-recyclable packaging – and only 20% in Japan concurred.

Even views of something broader like climate change differ between the two countries. In Japan, 38% of the population sees climate change as being caused by human activity, while 72% of Koreans see climate change the same way.

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