We have a waste problem.
The world threw away around 300 million tons of plastic in 2019, nearly equivalent to the weight of the human population. Scientists expect there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. One year’s electronic waste weighs in at more than 50 million tons. And while far too many people still go hungry, we waste a third of all the food produced.
Altogether, more than 100 billion tons of resources flow into the economy every year, and more than 60% ends up as waste or greenhouse gas emissions.
While COVID-19 made a significant dent in global consumption, it’s not a clear-cut picture. Clothing sales plummeted, but home office and exercise equipment purchases went up; spending in the hospitality industry went down, but groceries increased. The use of single-use plastics increased significantly, while plummeting oil prices reduced the economic incentive for plastic recycling.
The 2008 recession showed us that any fall in consumption is likely to be temporary without a concerted effort to make longer-term changes.