Professor David C. Wilson
Waste & Resources Management Consultant
Visiting Professor in Waste Management
Imperial College, London

Achieving the waste-related SDGs

Ljiljana Rodic and David C Wilson’s paper in the peer-reviewed open access journal Sustainability was published today: Resolving Governance Issues to Achieve Priority Sustainable Development Goals Related to Solid Waste Management in Developing Countries. As a key utility service that more than 2 billion people are currently lacking, solid waste management (SWM) is a crosscutting issue that can be directly linked to 12 out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Distinguishing between physical components and governance aspects of SWM, this research focuses on governance issues concerning basic solid waste collection services and controlled disposal, thus addressing the ‘How’ and the ‘Who’ dimensions of a SWM system.

As a form of transdisciplinary research, the findings from the literature on governance issues in SWM were iteratively subjected to several rounds of commentary by a large group of stakeholders from six continents, within the authors’ work for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s 2015 Global Waste Management Outlook. The study identifies a combination of complementary instruments required for extending collection to all and bringing disposal under control. While municipalities have a legal responsibility for providing services to their citizens, various service providers can contribute to an effective SWM system. Appropriate forms of funding are essential to secure financial sustainability of the services under the local conditions of affordability and willingness to pay. As new services require behavioural change on the part of citizens and municipal waste departments alike, communication and exchange with other stakeholders function as enabling and supporting factors. The significance of capacity development is highlighted.

DCW prepares to become CIWM President in 2017

Professor David C Wilson was installed as Senior Vice President of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management on 18 October 2016. CIWM has now commissioned WasteAid UK to undertake his Presidential project, which will prepare guidance on low-cost reuse and recycling technologies for use in low- and middle- income countries. This was one of the recommendations for follow-up work coming out of the 2015 UNEP Global Waste Management Outlook, for which DCW was the Editor-in-Chief.

Further information is available in a joint CIWM and Wasteaid UK press release issued today. Professor Wilson said: “More than two billion people worldwide do not have a waste collection service, which results in severe public health problems – through children playing amongst waste, blocked drains, infectious diseases and inhalation of smoke from open burning. Even when waste is collected, uncontrolled dumping is the norm – the waste of some 3 billion people isn’t disposed of safely.

“Many cities in Africa and Asia are growing so rapidly that in 15-20 years’ time they will be generating twice as much waste as they do today. Already struggling with the waste crisis, these cities desperately need targeted support from the international community. In the meantime, sustainable and self-financing community-led solutions can make immediate improvements, hence the focus of this research.”

WasteAid UK delivers training in community waste management in low- and middle-income countries. In its first year the charity has worked in the Gambia, Senegal, Ghana and Kenya, setting up community recycling facilities and positively impacting the lives of some 124,000 people.

Mike Webster of WasteAid UK said: “This guidance, funded by CIWM, will enable us to help thousands of communities around the world to improve the way they manage their waste. It will show people how to treat different materials to maximise their value and minimise risks to human health and the environment.” DCW is Patron of Wasteaid UK.

New map comparing MSWM around the World

The 2016 World Population Data Sheet focuses on human needs and sustainable resources, and features a map comparing municipal solid waste generation and management in cities around the world. For reliable and comparable data, the US think tank Population Resources Bureau (PRB) turned to the Wasteaware benchmark indicators. The map features 18 cities selected from the current database of 40 cities prepared and collated by Professor David C Wilson and colleagues.

The World Population Data Sheet (WPDS) is an authoritative resource prepared annually by the long-established PRB, and widely used across the World. This year’s special focus, ‘Human Needs, Sustainable Resources’, is the subject of an online Insights feature. The inclusion of MSWM recognises it is an essential utility service to protect public health and both the local and global environment. The map highlights that waste quantities rise with the income level of the country. For each of the 18 cities, data is also shown for the Wasteaware benchmark indicators for public health (% collection coverage), environmental protection (% of collected waste properly disposed) and resource management (%recycled). The Wasteaware indicators provide a reliable comparison of the performance of a city’s MSWM system; the database for 40 cities has been prepared and collated By Professor David C Wilson (Imperial College London), Dr Ljiljana Rodic (Independent Consultant, Leiden, Netherlands) and Dr Costas Velis (University of Leeds). The WPDS may be downloaded as a pdf, and a data visualisation tool and teaching resources are also available.

New tool to strengthen the informal recycling sector

The informal recycling sector makes an important and often undervalued contribution to solid waste management in many developing countries. They sit at the base of what is often now a global supply chain for recycled materials, and like other primary producers could benefit from initiatives to add value to the materials they collect. Professor David C Wilson’s team at Imperial College London have just published a new tool, based on Value Chain Analysis (VCA) as developed to improve the livelihood of poor farmers in Africa, using the iconic Zabaleen recyclers in Cairo as the demonstration case. VCA provides a significant and powerful addition to the analytical tools available for improving the position of the informal recycling sector. The paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling, can be downloaded free-of-charge until 17 September 2016.

The informal recycling sector can achieve recycling rates of 20-40%, significantly reducing the burden falling on the city for managing the remaining solid waste. However, there are serious issues of poor working conditions, child labour and uncontrolled dumping of residual wastes. Considerable efforts have been put into integrating the informal recyclers into a city’s formal solid waste management system, to everyone’s benefit: the recyclers can work under cleaner conditions, earn a better livelihood and educate their children; recycling rates can potentially increase; and the transition can facilitate environmental control, as well as bringing the ‘informal’ sector inside the legal and tax systems. DCW has been actively researching this area for more than 10 years; his 2006 review has more than 180 citations, while a 2012 paper developed the InteRa framework and tool for use in designing interventions for informal sector integration. He first researched the potential for adapting Value Chain Analysis (VCA) for use in this sector in 2009 with Dr Sanjay Gupta in India, and was delighted to have the opportunity in summer 2015 to carry out fieldwork with the GIZ National Solid Waste Management Programme project team in Egypt on this paper. The lead author is Remi Jaligot, then a Masters student at Imperial College London, and the other co-authors are Prof Chris Cheeseman of Imperial and Berti Shaker and Joachim Stretz of GIZ Egypt.

Two DCW articles on UNEP’s Global Waste Management Outlook

DCW has published two papers with Costas Velis to disseminate the UNEP/ ISWA Global Waste Management Outlook (GWMO), published in September 2015, for which DCW was Editor-in-Chief and lead author. Their editorial in the December issue of the ISWA peer-reviewed journal Waste Management & Research is titled: Waste management – still a global challenge in the 21st century: An evidence-based call for action. Their article for the CIWM monthly magazine, Global Goal-Getters, was published in the October issue. Both papers can be downloaded free of charge, as can the GWMO summaries and full report.

DCW enters into history

Book cover for the Wellcome Witness Seminar on Waste Management

The book cover

DCW took part in a Witness Seminar on The development of waste management in the UK c.1960-c.2000. The transcript has been published as Volume 56 of a series published by what is now the Wellcome History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group at Queen Mary University of London. The book is free to download, or can be purchased for £6 ($10) from any good bookshop by using the ISBN 978 1 91019 5062.

The Witness Seminar is a specialized form of oral history, where a number of individuals associated with a particular set of circumstances or events are invited to meet together to discuss, debate, and agree or disagree about their memories. The meeting is recorded, transcribed, and edited for publication.

This volume on waste management is a relatively new departure for the Wellcome series, following just one previous volume on Public Health. The scope was developments in the waste management industry and the production of waste in the UK since the 1960s, with a particular focus on London. A total of 25 people were invited to take part in the seminar in February 2014, of whom 16 were able to attend. According to the blurb: ‘The volume includes testimonies from former refuse collectors, senior municipal waste managers, policy makers and academics’. The Seminar was chaired by Dame Joan Ruddock, who as an MP initiated two important pieces of waste legislation, and the volume has an introduction by Councillor Lewis Herbert, who chaired the Greater London Council (GLC)’s Environmental Panel in the 1980s.

A series of six more detailed interviews were undertaken after the seminar, and these are also available online. The undoubted ‘star’ of both the seminar and the subsequent interviews was Ernie Sharp, who worked his way from dustman to Assistant General Manager for solid waste management for the GLC, and who obtained his MPhil at the age of 88. Ernie passed away earlier this year, and is sadly missed: the book is dedicated to him.

The introductory section on ‘What is a Witness Seminar’ concludes as follows. ‘For all our volumes, we hope that, even if the precise details of the more technical sections are not clear to the non-specialist, the sense and significance of the events will be understandable to all readers. Our aim is that the volumes inform those with a general interest in the history of modern medicine and medical science; provide historians with new insights, fresh material for study, and further themes for research; and emphasize to the participants that their own working lives are of proper and necessary concern to historians.’