Depending on lifestyle and consumption patterns, each person on the planet can generate tons of waste over the course of his or her life. The total amount of trash skyrockets with the farm, mine, and industrial wastes generated during the production of food, power, and consumer items.
“Working with Waste,” the 10 August special issue of Science, highlights the fact that trash can often be turned into treasure—a feedstock that the human race can’t afford to overlook as a burgeoning world population tries to use (and reuse) its resources more efficiently.
In the culture of research science, there’s a focus on the frontier, a premium on solving unsolved problems. But Paul Anastas, known as the father of green chemistry, urged scientists in a presentation at AAAS to revisit old problems and re-solve them in cleaner, more efficient ways.
Across science, in areas ranging from agriculture to light-bulb design and pharmaceutical development, science-driven improvements conceived in past decades often have come with high cost to the environment and sometimes human health, Anastas said.