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

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.

Building the evidence base for better waste management

DCW is participating in a live discussion this afternoon on ‘Building the evidence base for better waste management’, as part of the wastewise.be 2016 Global Dialogue on Waste. The particular focus will be on how to make the political case for waste management as a priority in developing countries. Broadcast live at 1500 GMT, 1600 UK time Thursday 01 September; later available as a video. The discussion is between Professor David C Wilson and Zoë Lenkiewicz, the communications manager of Wasteaid UK.

DCW becomes Patron of WasteAid UK

UNEP’s inaugural Global Waste Management Outlook (GWMO), which DCW edited, estimates that around 2 billion people worldwide still lack access to regular waste collection; while a larger number, around 3 billion, lack access to controlled disposal services for municipal solid wastes. WasteAid UK is a relatively new development charity set up by professionals to mobilise the UK waste and resource industry both to campaign and to address directly the global waste crisis, bringing solid waste management services to poor communities in the least developed countries. The particular niche where Wasteaid UK has chosen to focus is supporting unserved communities in Africa to recycle their wastes into sellable products, thus developing livelihoods, alleviating poverty AND establishing a sustainable solid waste collection and management system. I am proud to be the Patron of WasteAid UK, and encourage you to give us your support. Please read my blog on Responding to the global waste management crisis.

DCW’s training for DFID Advisors

Professor David C Wilson was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development to run a training module on sustainable solid waste management in developing countries. DCW’s materials drew heavily on the Global Waste Management Outlook. The day was part of a week-long face-to-face and virtual conference for DFID’s infrastructure and environment & climate advisors around the world.

Waste and climate – an opportunity

STOP PRESS: DCW has been invited to speak at the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (apsrg) seminar on ‘COP21 and Waste: Exploring the Resource Industry’s Potential of Contributing to Climate Change Mitigation’ at Westminster on 10 December 2015.

POSTED 09 November, 2015. In the run-up to the Paris summit on climate change, the search is on for short and medium term opportunities to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission across the economy. Several recent reports have pointed to the potential for improved waste and resource management as one such ‘entry point’. Some major developed economies have already reduced total GHG emissions by 5% through reduction of methane emissions from landfill. Tackling food waste could reduce global GHG emissions by 9%. Overall, the recent UNEP Global Waste Management Outlook (edited by DCW) has estimated that improved waste and resource management has the potential to save 15-20% of global GHG emissions across the economy.

Waste management is a cross-cutting issue impacting on many aspects of society and the economy. The link between waste and climate is particularly important. Waste management is generally considered a small but important contributor to GHG emissions. Its direct contribution through methane (CH4) emissions from anaerobic decomposition of organic wastes at disposal sites was estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at around 3% of total GHG emissions in 2010. However, this figure grossly underestimates the potential contribution of improved waste and resource management to global GHG mitigation, both because it ignores savings already made prior to 2010, and because the IPCC has used a very narrow definition of the ‘waste sector’.

Planet-wide MSW generation in 2010 was dominated by high-income countries, which had already substantially reduced methane emissions from landfills. For example, changes in Germany’s waste sector between 1990 and 2006 reduced the country’s total GHG emissions by 5% , and this was in addition to the significant mitigation of methane emissions already achieved prior to 1990.

The IPCC sector estimates are necessarily carefully segmented to avoid any possibility of double counting. So their estimate also omits those emissions displaced through waste prevention, reuse, recycling and biogenic energy recovery, as these occur outside of the ‘waste sector’ – a point which has also been highlighted in a recent report prepared for Zero Waste Europe. An earlier study for the German government, using a life cycle approach, estimated that a 10-15% reduction in global GHG emissions could be achieved through improved solid waste management, including landfill mitigation and diversion, energy from waste and recycling.

Including waste prevention could further increase this estimate. An on-going UN project estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of edible food waste is generated every year, representing one third of all food produced for human consumption. Prevention of this food waste would reduce total global GHG emissions by an amazing 9%: more than the total emissions of any country other than the US and China.

Overall, the GWMO concludes that the potential impact of improved waste and resource management on reducing GHG emissions across a broad range of economic sectors could be 15-20%.

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.