The world-wide waste web

Martínez, Johann H; Romero, Sergi; Ramasco, Jose J.; Estrada, Ernesto
Nature Communications 13, 1615 (2022)

Countries globally trade with tones of waste materials every year, some of which are highly hazardous.
This trade admits a network representation (W4 or world-wide waste web), with countries
as vertices and flows as directed weighted edges. Here we investigate the main properties of W4
by tracking 108 categories of wastes interchanged in the period 2001-2019. Although, most of the
hazardous waste were traded between developed nations, a disproportionate asymmetry existed in
the flow of waste from developed to developing countries. Using a dynamical model, we simulate
how waste congestion propagates through the W4. We identify 28 countries with low Environmental
Performance Index (EPI) that are at high risk of waste congestion. Therefore, they are at threat
of improper handling and disposal of HW. We found evidence of contamination by heavy metals
(HM), by volatile organic compounds (VOC) and/or by persistent organic pollutants (POP), which
were used as chemical fingerprints (CF), due to the improper handling of HW in several of these

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