Shrouded in smoke
Trash burning is a global phenomenon. But it is most prevalent in developing countries where there are fewer trash disposal facilities, such as landfills and incinerators.
The amount of garbage burned in remote villages and crowded megacities is likely on the rise, as more people worldwide are consuming more goods. The trash often contains discarded plastics and electronics as well as traditional materials such as food scraps and wood.
Wiedinmyer began wondering about the impact of burning trash while visiting remote villages in Ghana. The villages were shrouded in smoke caused in part from trash fires that smoldered all day.
To estimate emissions from trash fires, Wiedinmyer and her co-authors compared population figures and per capita waste production with official tallies of trash disposal for each country in the world. They estimated that 1.1 billion tons, or 41 percent, of the total waste generated worldwide is disposed of through unregulated burning every year.
The countries that produce the most total waste, according to the study's methods, are heavily populated countries with various levels of industrial development: China, the United States, India, Japan, Brazil, and Germany. But the nations with the greatest emissions from trash burning are populous developing countries: China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, and Turkey, the study concluded.
By analyzing consumption patterns in each country, the research team then estimated the type and amount of pollutants from the fires.
The study concluded that as much as 29 percent of human-related global emissions of small particulates (less than 2.5 microns in diameter) come from the fires, as well as 10 percent of mercury and 40 percent o
|Contact: David Hosansky