We use cookies for site personalization, analytics and advertising. You can opt out of third party cookies. More info in our privacy policy.   Got it

The dirt on waste

We talk of trashing our planet – taking more from nature than it is able to renew, speeding headlong towards climate chaos. But much less attention gets focused on the fact that we’re often doing this to create things that will themselves, in very short order, be trash.

The Waste edition of New Internationalist looks at how our vision of prosperity is built upon the transient and throwaway and argues for a system change to save a planet choking on its junk. Every year we produce plastic – much of which will be discarded after mere minutes of use – equivalent to the weight of every living person on Earth. In wealthy countries, industry spews out 42 kilos of waste per person every single day to keep the wheels of the economy turning. The amount of rubbish we’re creating keeps growing year on year.

The discourse around waste has got focused on recycling and what individuals can do to be less wasteful. Important as those things are, they go nowhere near far enough – it’s like picking up the pieces at the foot of the cliff rather than stopping the vandals at the top. Discover what else we need to be doing to tackle the deluge of trash.



Sharp analysis and in-depth global coverage delivered to your door, mobile or in-box.

Plus, access the entire archive of over 500 issues with our digital edition.

Subscribe »

Included in this issue

Modern life is rubbish

Dinyar Godrej argues that consumption patterns in a wasteful society add up to much more than the sum of individual actions.

'We cannot understand why we are being held here.' Tamil refugees on hunger strike in the lounge of the Earl William in August 1987, protesting their ongoing detention. Neil Libbert/The Guardian Archives

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

Felix Bazalgette reports on a little-known story of exodus and empire that paved the way for the Windrush scandal.

Cambridge Analytica – the disbanded data analytics company that allegedly used its software to create and disseminate hateful and inciting messages – in relation to Trump and Brexit, the company also played a nefarious role disseminating fake news in Africa.  In Nigeria, it tried to influence the 2015 election

Fake news is not just a Western problem

Misinformation is rife, but it’s nothing new, writes Nanjala Nyabola.

Should the West stop giving aid to Africa?

Is aid just an extension of colonial economics? Or a lifeline for imperfect but necessary support systems? Firoze Manji and...

Exploitation by tech firms and social media firms is not inevitable, suggests Vanessa Baird.

What if social media firms paid us?

Exploitation by tech firms is not inevitable, suggests Vanessa Baird.

French law forbids food waste by supermarkets ... France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing ... In December a bill on the issue passed through the national assembly, having been

When it is illegal to waste food

By supermarkets, that is. Timothy Baster and Isabelle Merminod on the progress of a much-lauded French law.

Agony Uncle: Will I traumatize my child by taking them to a migrant detention protest?

A reader asks New Internationalist's very own Agony Uncle about whether or not to take their young son to a protest outside an...

A Massacre in Mexico by Anabel Hernández​ Talking to North Korea by Glyn Ford Russia Without Putin by Tony Wood Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussen, translated by Anna Halagar​

Mixed media: books

Peter Whittaker and Jo Lateu review the latest selection of non-fiction radical book releases

Laibach: the politics of music

Laibach have produced a version of The Sound of Music that you can march to, writes Louise Gray for the Mixed Media section.

Dirty work: a photo essay

Dirty Work showcases the everyday lives of those making a living in the waste trade.  

In Nigeria pressure on natural resources driven by climate stress, alongside government. The link must be broken with Religion and climate change

Don’t privatize forests, educate the people

In rural Nigeria, religious leaders think sinful behaviour is to blame for climate change, writes Adesuwa Ero.

An indigenous movement in Jharkhand is reminding the Indian authorities of their constitutional duty to protect tribal lands.

Indigenous India: written in stone

An indigenous movement in Jharkhand is reminding the Indian authorities of their constitutional duty to protect tribal lands....

Past issues

Subscribe   Ethical Shop