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The world’s most wasteful countries

The average household in the UK produces more than a tonne of waste every year – and it’s during the festive period that we waste the most. In fact, over Christmas the UK creates 30 percent more waste than usual. Everything from cards and envelopes, wrapping paper, boxes from biscuits and chocolates, shopping bags, wine bottles and toy packaging – on average, each household will chuck out an extra five bags of waste over Christmas, adding up to 736,571 tonnes of refuse every year.

But just how wasteful are we?

  • 300,000 tonnes of card packaging is used at Christmas; enough to cover London’s famous landmark, Big Ben, almost 260,000 times.
  • 1 billion cards end up in the bin, when they could be recycled.
  • The amount of wrapping paper used for presents is enough to wrap around the equator 9 times.
  • 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away.
  • 6 million Christmas trees are discarded every year.
  • 250 tonnes of Christmas trees are thrown away after Christmas, when they could be used for compost.

Overall recycling rates are increasing, but so is our population. Countries around the world are generating large amounts of waste as their populations grow and their economies expand. The amount of waste generated by urban residents in 2016 is estimated to have doubled to 1.2 kilograms per capita per day from 0.64 kilograms per capita per day 10 years ago. On a yearly basis, this equates to 1.3 billion tonnes per year in 2016, versus about 680 million tonnes per year a decade ago.

The World Bank has reported that the amount of urban waste being produced is growing faster than the rate of urbanisation. In fact, by 2025 there will be 1.4 billion more people living in cities worldwide, with each person producing an average of 1.42kg of municipal solid waste (MSW) per day – more than double the current average of 0.64kg per day. Annual worldwide urban waste is estimated to more than triple, from 0.68 to 2.2 billion tonnes per year.

The average person generates over 1.5 tonnes of solid waste per year, but which country produces the most waste in a single day?

Click here to view the full interactive map. 

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