5 Countries That Produce the Most Waste

5 Countries That Produce the Most Waste

Feature Staff

When people talk about waste, images of discarded highway trash and bags floating in the wind often come to mind. But in reality, litter only makes up a fraction of the total trash produced by each country. The real culprit is usually the construction industry, where excavations, roadwork, and demolitions create tons of fodder for landfills. It should come as no surprise, then, that the countries that produce the most waste per capita typically have robust construction industries.

5. Finland

Finland produces very little municipal waste. Almost half of what is thrown away by the Finnish people gets burned in incinerators, a process that has improved over the years.

Due to its high advocacy in Europe, recycling has become a popular method for discarding waste. This further brings down the country’s carbon footprint. In many ways, the Finnish people are a fine example of a population dedicated to an eco-friendly planet.

However, businesses have not caught up to these values. The vast majority of waste in the country comes from its industrial sector, especially construction. As Finland becomes wealthier, its urban areas expand, and with that comes a staggering amount of construction waste.

4. Estonia

Estonia stands apart from other European Union members, though not in the most positive way. This country of under two million people generates far more hazardous waste than its neighbors.

Most of the waste comes from the oil shale sector. Ash and other trash go to landfills, polluting the air. The taxes meant to disincentivize this behavior are rarely enforced, so companies have no reason to bring down their footprint.

3. United States

The United States, unlike Finland, produces a high amount of municipal, industrial, medical, and agricultural waste. Several billion tons of waste are accumulated each year just by the collective habits of American citizens.

The US is the number one contributor of municipal waste. By contrast, China, which produces the second most municipal waste, makes only a few hundred million tons.

2. Bulgaria

Bulgaria is another nation whose waste lies mostly in its construction industry. After the 2008 recession, real estate saw an increase in productivity. Since joining the EU in 2007, Bulgaria has met its environmental promises to the governing body by significantly lowering air pollution and protecting public lands. However, Bulgaria has a ways to go if it wants to leave the list of countries that produce the most waste.

1. Canada

This may come as a surprise. Canada, a country known for protecting its natural environment, is the most wasteful nation in the world? How could this be?

It does seem like a contradiction, but Canada has produced more waste per capita than any other country due to oil refining, chemical manufacturing, and metal processing. Though they have reached milestone achievements with climate-friendly technology and biodiversity planning, the country will have to do more to leave the number one spot.