Grace Kendall asks why isn’t the amount of waste we produce slowing down?

Why isn’t the amount of waste we produce slowing down?

Recently I attended a lecture delivered by Professor Danny Dorling, where he spoke about the extent to which he believed the human race is slowing down. I was very intrigued by the title of his lecture and the concepts that he was talking about were fascinating yet in some places slightly confusing. Dorling started off by telling us that according to his research only 4 things are slowing down and initially this was a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around.

Firstly, I would like to make the phrase ‘slowing down’ clear as throughout the lecture I was getting this phrase confused with ‘decreasing’ as something can be slowing down but still getting bigger, just the rate at which it is increasing is slower than what it was.

Apparently, the human race has been slowing down since the 1970s and Dorling’s theory is that only 4 factors are not slowing down today (hard to believe, right?) and these things are: CO2 Emissions, Global Temperature, Number of University graduates and the number of commercial passenger flights.

If so many things are decreasing how can only 4 be speeding up?

Danny Dorling is an Oxford Professor of Geography and in no way am I, an A Level student, trying to debunk his theories but after the lecture I was left thinking and I had some time to research deeper into this myself and came to another conclusion.

Immediately I thought of how much waste we humans are producing each year – surely this is speeding up? With waste and recycling being such a current topic that so many of us are beginning to realise just how serious this issue is I find it hard to believe that he may have overlooked such a significant area.

I took to the internet and according to many sources, including, the amount of rubbish we are producing and will continue to produce is increasing and in years to come will still rise. We produce an extraordinary amount of waste per year and with populations increasing, this is only going to get worse. Although the media has drawn a lot of attention to this topic, little is being done on a large scale to bring about meaningful change.

In the December 2019 edition of National Geographic some alarming figures have been published, many unexpected, regarding single use plastic:
– 1 million plastic beverage bottles are bought every minute globally
– 60 million tires are rotting in US landfills
– 1 billion toothbrushes will be discarded this year in the US
– 3 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away each year
Furthermore, the percentage of this ‘disposable’ plastic that is recycled is even more shocking, only about 1/3 of plastic packaging is recycled in the UK (and we have one of the highest rates on a global scale).

This issue of National Geographic also gives you personal tips on how you can individually reduce waste and although this may have a small effect if a large enough number of people actually take this on board, I feel that this is not enough if we seriously want to reduce this. In my opinion, one effective solution would be targeting big companies and brands, like McDonalds and Starbucks, by introducing a large plastic packaging taxes and bans on certain items in stores (such as plastic lids and straws). This way, there would be an enormous reduction in the amount of packaging that is manufactured as it is TNCs like this that produce the most single-use plastic.

Yes, we are all guilty of grabbing a plastic spoon that comes in plastic packaging to eat our yoghurt from our plastic pot while peeling off the plastic lid and the film underneath just because it is more convenient; But surely these bad habits need to stop being so accessible to us in order for us to change our ways and to start making a difference in the amount of plastic we consume?