Waste Management

The waste management sector is crucial to everyone as it protects not only our health, but also the environment. However, rising populations, consumerism, economic growth, and urbanization on a global scale has fueled a daunting amount of waste. On average, roughly two billion metric tons of waste is generated each year. This is expected to increase in the coming decades, putting increased pressure on the waste management industry.

Recent media attention on plastic pollution has highlighted the tragic impacts waste can have on the environment. Waste management failings have been further highlighted since China imposed a ban on foreign waste imports. For many years, wealthy nations used to export huge volumes of trash to China to be recycled, but in 2018 it imposed a ban on foreign waste imports. This has led to calls for improved recycling and collection, as well as a transition to a more circular economy through sustainable practices like up-cycling and zero-waste lifestyles.

Average annual municipal solid waste generation worldwide
2.02bn metric tons
Highest per capita generator of municipal solid waste
United States
Share of total plastic materials recycled since 1950

Market size

Waste management market size is expected to grow
Market size of waste management worldwide in 2019 and a forecast for 2027 (in billion U.S. dollars)
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In 2019, the value of the global waste management market surpassed two trillion U.S. dollars, and is expected to continue growing in the coming years. By 2027, the market value is projected to increase by roughly 300 billion U.S. dollars. The growth in the market can be attributed to a number of scenarios, such as improved waste collection, as well as the increasing waste volumes in emerging markets.

Waste generation worldwide
Global plastic recycling market value
Global outlook on waste to energy market value

Market segments

Distribution of municipal solid waste treatment and disposal worldwide in 2016, by method
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Recycling currently accounts for less than 15 percent of municipal solid waste treatment worldwide. In addition to high processing costs, the recycling sector faces numerous challenges. Many countries lack household collection and sorting facilities, while not all materials are recyclable. Waste is also often thrown away in the incorrect bin or is contaminated with food. This means that large quantities of potentially recyclable materials often end up in landfills or are spilled into the ocean.

Global regional waste disposal by methods
Recycling in the United States
Global plastic materials flow since 1950

Industry trends

E-waste on the rise
Electronic waste generated worldwide from 2010 to 2019 (in million metric tons)*
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With the increasing availability and popularity of electronic products around the world, e-waste is now the fastest growing waste stream globally. Between 2010 and 2019, global e-waste generation grew by roughly 20 million metric tons to more than 50 million metric tons. This trend is set to continue in the coming decades as e-waste volumes in emerging economies, such as Asia Pacific, are expected to grow rapidly.

Global E-Waste
Consumer electronics
Global e-waste generation by region

Industry leaders

Largest waste management companies
Revenue of selected major waste management companies worldwide in FY 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars)
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The largest waste management company in the world is Veolia. The French multinational reported a revenue of more than 30 billion U.S. dollars in the 2020 financial year. This was well ahead of the second largest waste management firm – Suez. A number of the world’s leading waste management companies are based in the United States, such as Waste Management Inc. which reported revenues of roughly 15 billion U.S. dollars in the same year.

Waste Management Inc.
Waste Management in the United States

Industry Definition

The waste management category provides statistics and reports on all aspects involved in the municipal, commercial, and industrial waste segments. These include topics such as waste generation, waste collection, treatment, and disposal, and waste streams, as well as pollution.


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