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

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.

DCW installed as CIWM Junior Vice-President

Junior Vice President CIWM

DCW receiving his medal of office as CIWM Junior Vice President from Prof Jim Baird

Professor David C Wilson has been elected as Junior Vice-President by the Trustees of his professional body, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM). Under the CIWM constitution, DCW is due to become CIWM President for one year from October 2017.

DCW was installed in office by the incoming President, Professor Jim Baird, at the Presidential Dinner in Kelvinsgrove Museum, Glasgow, on 21 October 2015. Jim Baird is the 100th individual to hold office as CIWM President. CIWM is the professional body for waste and resource management professionals in the UK and Ireland. It is the linear descendant of the Association of Cleansing Superintendents of Great Britain, founded in 1898.

DCW public lecture and webinar in London

Professor David C Wilson will be presenting a talk on Integrated Sustainable Waste Management in Developing Countries on Monday 16 March 2015. This is part of the Thomas Telford Prestige Lecture Series at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) – these are public lectures on selected Monday evenings from January through to April from 1800-1935 at the ICE in Great George Street. Improving solid waste management is a major challenge in developing countries. There are many serious problems but no universal answer. Solutions need to be developed locally and tailored specifically to local needs and conditions. The lecture is also available to watch live online with the opportunity to pose questions. Follow the links to register to either attend in person or watch online.

The five lectures in the series are all based on award winning papers from the ICE publication awards – the related paper by David C Wilson, Costas Velis and Ljiljana Rodic won the ICE Telford Premium Medal 2014, acknowledging it as one of the top papers across all the ICE journals. It was published in the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Waste and Resource Management journal and is free to download.

Municipal solid waste management is one of the major responsibilities of a city government, and an essential utility service that we all tend to take for granted. Uncollected solid wastes present a public health risk – either directly to children living with waste piles, or breathing the smoke from uncontrolled burning – or indirectly through blocked drains and water courses providing stagnant water and breeding grounds for infectious diseases, or causing widespread flooding. When collected, it is necessary for wastes to be subject to environmentally sound management – large scale uncontrolled disposal can result in serious air, water, land and ocean pollution. The challenges facing developing country cities are growing fast: populations are rising, people are migrating from rural areas to the cities, waste generation per capita is increasing as economies grow and the nature of the waste is changing – many cities in Africa and Asia expect their waste quantities to double within 20 years.

This paper presents the results of six years’ work to benchmark the performance of cities around the world in tackling their solid waste management. Our data show that performance has improved significantly since 2000; from a relatively low baseline, it is already commonplace to achieve 95% rates of collection coverage and controlled disposal in middle-income cities, and 50% in low-income cities. However many challenges remain in the lower income countries – so much so that the continuing lack of basic services to billions worldwide has been described as ‘the solid waste emergency’.

How can we rise to this challenge? Solutions need to address both the physical components – collection, disposal, recycling – and the governance aspects – inclusivity of users and service providers; financial sustainability; and coherent, sound institutions underpinned by proactive policies. Our results show that recycling rates of 20-30% are achieved by the informal sector in many lower income countries, at no direct cost to the city authorities – presenting a major opportunity for all key stakeholders to develop win-win solutions to the benefit of all.

The evidence suggests that efficient, effective and affordable systems are those tailored to local needs and conditions, developed with direct involvement of service beneficiaries. Despite the remaining challenges, evidence of recent improvements suggests that sustainable solid waste and resources management is feasible for developing countries.

Parallel publications include the UN-Habitat book on Solid Waste Management in the World’s Cities; the paper of SWM in 20 cities; and anaccount of the ‘Wasteaware’ ISWM indicator set for benchmarking the performance of a city’s solid waste management system.