Infographic: World of Waste

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Science  10 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6095, pp. 664-667
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6095.664

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The scope and reliability of waste statistics vary widely around the world, and even wealthy, developed countries can have big data gaps. In the United States, for example, battles over waste policy have complicated government efforts to document some waste streams, and budget cuts threaten programs that try to calculate how materials flow through the economy. Further complicating matters, nations sometimes use different waste definitions, making meaningful comparisons difficult. Still, enough data exist to draw some insights into where the world's waste is coming from, where it is going, and how waste streams are changing. And the numbers suggest that local economic, social, and geographic factors can play a big role in waste management, leading nations to take often very different approaches.