Scientists' warning against the society of waste

Isabel Marín-Beltrán*, Federico Demaria, Claudia Ofelio, Luis M. Serra, Antonio Turiel, William J. Ripple, Sharif A. Mukul, Maria Clara Costa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Other contribution

1 Citation (Scopus)


The metabolism of contemporary industrialized societies, that is their energy and material flows, leads to the overconsumption and waste of natural resources, two factors often disregarded in the global ecological equation. In this Discussion article, we examine the amount of natural resources that is increasingly being consumed and wasted by humanity, and propose solutions to reverse this pattern. Since the beginning of the 20th century, societies, especially from industrialized countries, have been wasting resources in different ways. On one hand, the metabolism of industrial societies relies on non-renewable resources. On the other hand, yearly, we directly waste or mismanage around 78% of the total water withdrawn, 49% of the food produced, 31% of the energy produced, 85% of ores and 26% of non-metallic minerals extracted, respectively. As a consequence, natural resources are getting depleted and ecosystems polluted, leading to irreversible environmental changes, biological loss and social conflicts. To reduce the anthropogenic footprint in the planet, and live in harmony with other species and ourselves, we suggest to shift the current economic model based on infinite growth and reduce inequality between and within countries, following a degrowth strategy in industrialized countries. Public education to reduce superfluous consumption is also necessary. In addition, we propose a set of technological strategies to improve the management of natural resources towards circular economies that, like ecosystems, rely only upon renewable resources.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022

Publication series

NameScience of The Total Environment
ISSN (Print)0048-9697


  • Degrowth
  • Environmental justice
  • Natural resources
  • Overconsumption
  • Social metabolism
  • Sustainability
  • Waste


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