SOUTH AFRICA, 2006

The Beaufort West landfill, West Cape Province

Subotzky© Mikhael Subotzky / Magnum Photos


7 billion: the number of people living on Earth. 2.01 billion tonnes: the amount of solid waste we have produced. It is estimated that we will have produced more than 3.4 billion tonnes of waste by 2050.
Waste disposal is a crucial issue for environmental policy research and management, as it becomes increasingly difficult to strike a legislative balance when it comes to waste collection, disposal and recycling, especially in developing countries.
For years, it has been common knowledge that waste is being sent illegally to Sub-Saharan African countries and to India, nations where collection and recycling mechanisms are difficult to implement. There, waste of all kinds – including toxic and special waste – is simply burned, triggering not only very severe environmental damage, but harm to humans as well. The people who work or live near these places breathe dangerous fumes every day, risking their lives in precarious and unhealthy conditions. Data tell us that as we produce more and more waste, the poorest parts of the world risk becoming the “landfills” of the richest countries, increasing the gaping chasm that already exists between rich and poor areas, with pollution and health problems making the latter less and less attractive.
Thus, climate change will negatively impact areas of the world that are already poor, worsening their conditions even more and further impoverishing them.

Jessica Marzaro