The challenge

Untreated waste threatens life on our planet

No time to waste

As our population grows to 9.7 billion, we will produce an estimated 70% more waste by 2050. And while more than one-third of waste in high-income countries is currently treated and reused, over 90% of waste in low-income countries is left untreated, ending up in landfills or open dumps. The methane emitted by these landfills is a powerful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 84 times that of  CO2 (in a 20-year time horizon), fast turning untreated waste into one of humankind’s greatest threats.

How do uncontrolled landfills affect communities?

Public Health Risk

Firstly, degrading waste produces the dangerous greenhouse gases (GHG) methane and carbon dioxide that cause air pollution and speed up global warming. Toxic waste materials also leach into waterways, polluting rivers, oceans and aquifers. Along with nuisances such as flies, odours, smoke and spontaneous fires, uncontrolled landfills and open dumps pose a substantial public health risk.

Socio-economic impact

Often informal waste pickers are women, children, unemployed or disabled and the work is not without danger. They are working without adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and are at risk of injury. Perhaps more worryingly, COVID-19 contamination risk is high as they sort through rubbish which often includes face masks and other medical waste.

Pollutants into the ocean

Uncontrolled fires from waste dumps and landfills emit toxic fumes as dioxins, furans and heavy metals into the air which will rain out over fertile soil, rivers and oceans. These pollutants enter the food chain via small organisms or are consumed by fish.



of global emissions are generated from solid waste management, excluding transportation.

Methane from landfills represents 12-15% of total global methane emissions – The World Bank



of waste in low-income countries is dumped or burned – missing potential income through recycling & energy production

“Left unmanaged, dumped or burned, waste harms human health, hurts the environment and climate, and hinders economic growth in poor and rich countries alike” – Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director of the World Bank



of the 19m+ workers in the waste industry are informal workers.

In recent years, landslides of waste dumps have buried homes and people under piles of waste. And it is the poorest who often live near waste dumps and power their city’s recycling system through waste picking, leaving them susceptible to serious health repercussions. – The World Bank

We can turn waste into a bright future!

An improved waste management system is an often overlooked but powerful tool for massive societal and environmental impact, especially in developing countries. Establishing cleaner alternatives to uncontrolled landfills can help put the brakes on climate change and sustain life on this planet for future generations.

Find out how