Every year, the world produces more than two billion tons of waste — enough to fill a fleet of trash trucks to circle the world 24 times, according to sustainability project the World Counts. The World Bank estimates the yearly global cost of dealing with waste is more than $200 billion and predicts annual waste will exceed 11 million tons per day by 2100 if current trends continue.

But where does it all go? Whether it’s an island built as a landfill or the outskirts of historic monuments, the world’s waste is piling up with no end in sight. These images offer an acute reminder of the seriousness of waste management and the desperate need to address it. It’s simply not sustainable.


Thilafushi is an artificial island created in the Maldives, a few miles off the coast of capital city Malé, to be used as a landfill. Smoke billows from Thilafushi as trash is burned in the background, with the Maldivian capital, Malé, in the foreground.

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