More people means more waste
If the world is serious about dealing with the waste crisis, then stabilising populations everywhere is an essential part of the solution, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).
March 30 is International Day of Zero Waste as declared by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2022. The UN recognised that the waste sector contributes significantly to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, and pollution.
SPA national president, Ms Jenny Goldie, notes that a zero-waste approach entails responsible production, consumption and disposal of products in a closed, circular system.
“This is commendable,” says Ms Goldie. “Nevertheless, you cannot have a closed, circular system if the population continues to grow. Even where production, consumption and disposal of products is ‘responsible’, you cannot get away from the fact that more people will generate more waste.
“In Australia, many landfill sites are already full. Sydney, for instance, with a population of over five million and still growing, has to send its waste over 200kms to Tarago, near Goulburn.”
Food waste is a particular problem in Australia, with 7.6 million tonnes of food wasted each year across the supply and consumption chain, costing the economy around $36.6 billion each year, and accounting for approximately 3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
“Australia uses around the equivalent of the volume of water in five Sydney Harbours to grow the food that is wasted each year, and the land used to grow wasted food requires a landmass larger than the state of Victoria.
“By all means, let’s adopt strategies that will reduce waste or turn food waste into compost, but the more people there are, the more food needs to be grown and, in turn, the likelihood of waste.
“The same principle applies to clothing and all consumer goods. Per capita reduction in use of consumer items is necessary and welcome, but such efforts may well be offset by a greater number of consumers.”