Info Sheets

    Key Facts on Waste Issues

  • According to the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, only between 25 and 55 per cent of all waste generated in large cities is collected by municipal authorities.

  • The UN Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that more than five million people die each year from diseases related to inadequate waste disposal systems.

  • At least 60 per cent of the countries that submitted national reports to the United Nations in advance of the 1992 Earth Summit said that solid waste disposal was among their biggest environmental concerns.

  • More than half of the world's municipal waste is generated in developed countries. In the United States, for example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American produces well over .75 tons of trash each year.

  • Industrialized countries generate more than 90 per cent of the world's annual total of some 325-375 million tons of toxic and hazardous waste, mostly from the chemical and petrochemical industries.

  • Most countries in the developed world only introduced laws to control hazardous waste disposal in the 1970s and are left with a vast heritage of pre-legislation sites. Nearly two per cent of North America's underground aquifers may be contaminated by such dumps. Germany has identified 35,000 problem sites; Denmark has 3,200 and the Netherlands 4,000.

  • According to the Worldwatch Institute, there are more than 80,000 tons of irradiated fuel and hundreds of thousands of tons of other radioactive waste accumulated so far from the commercial generation of electricity from nuclear power.

  • Irradiated fuel can take hundreds of thousands of years to decay into a harmless substance. Until then, it is extremely dangerous and must be kept far away from possible human contact.

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org