chapter  17
Life-cycle assessment and recycling
Pages 10

Waste disposal ‘The Earth is infinitely bountiful’, so say the eco-sceptics. The reality is that society cannot continue to consume natural assets at the current rate. For example, the ecological footprint is the area of land (and sea) taken up to meet the needs of individuals or societies. A citizen of the US uses 34 acres; in the UK the average per capita is 14 acres; Pakistan, 1.6 acres. Worldwide the average is 4.5 acres due mainly to consumption in the industrialised nations. In ecological terms this means that the Earth is already living beyond its means. In 1962 it took 0.7 years for the annual biological harvest to regenerate. Currently it takes 1.25 years which means the natural capital account is going increasingly ‘into the red’ (Mathis Wackernagel at a conference ‘Redefining Progress’, February 2003 reported in The Guardian, 20 February 2003). This provides the context for considering the problems of waste.