UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for war on garbage, asking humanity to stop treating planet Earth like a garbage dump. "We are trashing our only home.
We're spewing a torrent of waste and pollution that is affecting our environment, our economies, and our health," he told a high-level event of the UN General Assembly on the role of zero waste as a transformative solution in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, Xinhua news agency reported.
Pollution and chemicals are poisoning water, air and soil. Meanwhile, a staggering 10 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions comes from growing, storing and transporting food that is never used -- an outrage when more than 800 million people around the world go hungry every year, and when time is running out to avoid climate catastrophe, he said.
Waste is a killer -- of people, of the planet, of natural resources and ecosystems, of economies, which lose billions each year from waste. And the gobs of garbage keep growing.
By 2050, municipal solid waste will double to 4 billion tons each year, said Guterres. "Garbage is laying waste to our planet. It's time to fight back, and launch a war on waste on three fronts."
First, polluters themselves must take the lead to mitigate, he said. Those who produce waste must design products and services that are less resource- and material-intensive, smartly manage any waste created across all stages of their products' lifecycle, and find creative ways to extend the lives of the products they sell.
And they need to invest in waste management, recovery and recycling systems in the communities in which they operate. Second, there is a need to massively invest in the ability of countries, cities and local governments to develop and scale up modern waste management systems, and policies that encourage people to re-use and recycle everything from plastic bottles to aging electronics, he said.
Third, consumers must be far more responsible, said the UN chief. "All of us need to consider the origins and impacts of the goods and products we buy every day and rethink how we dispose of them.
We need to find opportunities to reuse, recycle, repurpose, repair and recover the products we use. And we need to think twice before throwing these items in the garbage." All three of these areas have potential for massive economic benefits.
Circular, zero-waste economies could save governments billions of dollars and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. But unlocking these benefits requires collaboration on a global scale, he said.
"We're making a mess of our world. It's time to clean up. Let's work as one to build a circular, zero-waste future -- for people and planet." The high-level event coincides with the first International Day of Zero Waste, which falls on March 30.