What to do About all This “Stuff”
According to the New Scientist magazine, human beings create and use 100 billion tons of “stuff” every year, with a large part coming from the building construction and food sectors. This “stuff” includes biomass products (crops, wood, paper, food, etc.), fossil fuel products (oil, gas, coal, plastics, etc.), metal ores (iron, steel, rare metals, electronic equipment, etc.), and non-metal minerals (concrete, glass, aggregate, etc.). Of this 100 billion tons, only about 30 billion tons go into making anything of permanence. “The rest is burned as fuel or used fleetingly and discarded — at each stage polluting land, water and air and creating climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.”
About 8.6 per cent of these 100 billion tons are recycled and reused. The rest is either incinerated, dumped in landfills, left to rot on the land or shipped off from richer countries to developing countries. The technology and science already exists to effectively utilize and re-purpose this waste. The issue is to have the political and economic processes and systems in place that empower people to bring this technology and science to bear.
1. Howgego, Joshua. “Waste not… want not?” New Scientist, February 12, 2022.