Solid waste management affects every single person in the world, whether individuals are managing their own waste or governments are providing waste management services to their citizens. As nations and cities urbanize, develop economically, and grow in terms of population, the World Bank estimates that waste generation will increase from 2.01 billion tons in 2016 to 3.40 billion tons in 2050. At least 33% of this waste is mismanaged globally today through open dumping or burning.

The information contained in What a Waste 2.0 : A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050 provides students and instructors with “extensive solid waste data at the national and urban levels” with projections on waste generation and disposal through 2050. The data comes from 217 countries and economies and 367 cities and can be evaluated and compared to discuss a variety of topics of interest to students, including world politics, economic policy, civic responsibility, social justice, environmental science, and geography.

This report also highlights the impact of waste management on the most vulnerable populations and the environmental cost to our water supply and oceans. It also brings awareness on how businesses and industries can lead the way in reducing waste around the world while also managing economic growth and innovation.

Some other activities and resources on the topic of waste management and how solid waste can impact our health include:

  • In a Plastic World and other activities from the Statistics for Action collection
  • Staying Safe in a Toxic World which appeared in the publication The Change Agent - Use this resource to build vocabulary and to become informed about threats to air, soil, and water. Students also can practice skills and discuss ideas in environmental justice work.
  • Plastic Recycling Facts and Figures from the The Balance Small Business website - Use this resource to look at the economic impact of recycling plastic.
  • Connecting Math & Science: Contextualizing to Topics That Count - Use this resource and the topic of recycling to demonstrate application to math classes with lessons for fractions, percents, ratios and other foundational math skills. The resources on this site bring together the GED Science focusing theme of Energy and related systems, with real data, charts, infographics and information about recycling and materials cycles. Students care about recycling. It is a way to be civically active. Experience the connections to GED and career preparation that integrating science and math can bring to your students in your classroom. Extensions to reading and writing lessons are available and encouraged.
  • Meal Kits Have a Smaller Carbon Footprint Than Grocery Shopping, Study Says - Use this NPR article to discuss the impact of plastic, transportation emissions, and food waste on the environment.
  • The Story of Bottled Water from The Story of Stuff collection - Use this video to get students thinking about how manufactured demand influences consumers to buy bottled water when water is available through the taps in our homes and businesses for much less money and with much less environmental impact. 
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Digital Literacy
Mathematics and Adult Numeracy
Social Studies
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PD Center
SABES Mathematics and Adult Numeracy Curriculum and Instruction PD Center