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

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.

‘Wasteaware’ benchmark indicators to measure the performance of a city’s SWM system

As the culmination of five year’s work by a large team around the world, DCW is delighted to announce the publication today, in the peer reviewed journal Waste Management, of a seminal paper on the development and use of the ‘Wasteaware’ benchmark indicators for integrated sustainable waste management in cities. Solid waste management (SWM) is a key utility service, but data is often lacking. Measuring their SWM performance helps a city establish priorities for action. The Wasteaware benchmark indicators provide a self-assessment and diagnostic tool to measure both technical and governance aspects; have been tested in more than 50 cities on 6 continents; and enable consistent comparison between cities and countries and monitoring progress.

The integrated sustainable waste management (ISWM ) framework is used to analyse a city’s solid waste management system as two overlapping ‘triangles’ – one comprising the three physical components, i.e. collection, recycling, and disposal, and the other comprising three governance aspects, i.e. inclusivity; financial sustainability; and sound institutions and proactive policies. The Wasteaware indicator set combines relatively well-established quantitative indicators for waste generation, composition and the three main physical components or infrastructure, with a corresponding, qualitative, composite indicator for the ‘quality’ of service provision for each physical component; and in addition five qualitative, composite indicators that assess performance for the three main governance aspects.

The paper builds on pioneering work for UN-Habitat’s Solid Waste Management in the World’s Cities . The indictors were further developed and used in a comparative analysis of 20 cities . This experience was fed into a revised indicator set developed as part of the GIZ project onOperator Models . This in turn led to a further round of testing and revision, which has culminated in the ‘Wasteaware’ benchmark indicators, which have now been used in some form in more than 50 cities around the world. This experience confirms the utility of the indicators in allowing comprehensive performance measurement and comparison of both ‘hard’ physical components and ‘soft’ governance aspects; and in prioritising ‘next steps’ in developing a city’s solid waste management system, by identifying both local strengths that can be built on and weak points to be addressed. The Wasteaware ISWM indicators are applicable to a broad range of cities with very different levels of income and solid waste management practices. Their wide application as a standard methodology will help to fill the historical data gap – a User Manual has been published alongside the paper.

ISWA reports on Globalisation and Waste Management

The ISWA Task Force on Globalisation published its final report today, to coincide with the opening of the ISWA 2014 World Congress in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Two supporting reports have also been published, on Global Recycling Markets: Plastic Waste and A Review of International Development Co-operation in Solid Waste Management. Prof David C Wilson was the scientific co-ordinator for the Task Force and a co-author of the reports.

The Task Force’s interim report, in 2012, highlighted the links between globalised supply chains, consumerism, population growth, urbanisation, resource depletion and waste management. It underlined the crisis humanity faces in needing to stop open waste dumping and to bring collection services to half the world’s population that don’t have them. Dumping and incomplete collection damage our health and environment. It called for a collective global effort, such as in the fight against diseases (malaria, AIDS), in order to stop hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste polluting our water, soil and air. This requires co-operation between a wide range of stakeholders and above all funding.

The Task Force’s Final Report addresses a series of issues in a concise and accessible manner. The report addresses the challenges of managing wastes in rapidly growing megacities. It also searches for answers to the growing challenge of informal sector workers, particularly in developing nations, and how to protect them through a transition to more formal structures, a highly contentious issue among waste professionals. A previous update and seminal open access paper has also addressed this issue.

The other two issues have also been elaborated in the two major reports published alongside the Final Report. One addresses recycling of plastics and how the global supply chain is affected by recycling practices in developed nations that rely on export markets, particularly China, to ensure their sustainability. The other examines the role of international co-operation in the development of waste management in economically poorer nations and finds that the amount of international co-operation going to protect people’s health and their environment from uncontrolled waste is almost nothing, a miserable record for the International co-operation community and one which must be changed in the near term.

DCW guest edits special issue of WM&R on Cities and Waste

Professor David C Wilson has guest edited with Costas Velis of the University of Leeds a special issue of the peer reviewed journal Waste Management & Research on Cities and Waste. They co-authored the editorial on Cities and waste: Current and emerging issues, which is free to download. The 12 papers in the special issue cover a wide range of topics, including an assessment of the current municipal solid waste management system in Lahore, Pakistan co-authored by DCW.

In 1950, only 30% of the World’s population lived in urban areas; in 2014 that is now 54%; and by 2050 it is forecast to become 66% – the majority of that growth will be in Africa and Asia. There were 10 ‘megacities’ with a population over 10 million in 1990, of which five were in developing countries; there are 28 in 2014, with all but two of the new entrants in developing countries; the forecast for 2030 is 40. There is a strong correlation between municipal solid waste (MSW) generation per capita and the income level of a country, so as economies grow in low or middle income countries, we can expect per capita waste levels to increase. Hence, it is reasonable to predict that, for many cities in Africa and Asia, the total quantities of MSW in 2030 will be around double the current levels. Which is why we chose to focus this Special Issue of WM&R on Cities and Waste. 

A number of the papers address this basic challenge, of how to provide a basic level of service for MSW in rapidly growing developing country cities. Two important papers address how to move waste management to resource management, and who owns waste, a question that is becoming increasingly important, and contentious, as resource values increase. One common theme across many of the papers is the need for more, and better data: ‘If you don’t measure or estimate it, then you can’t hope to manage it’.Another is providing support to decision making for sustainable waste management in a city: several papers apply a set of performance indicators that DCW has been working on from a number of years.

GIZ publish seminal work on Operator Models

GIZ have announced the finalisation of their work on Operator Models, focusing on how services for municipal solid waste management are delivered around the world, and analyzing the success factors and conditions for the different models.  Based on an in-depth Sourcebook, a practical Guidance Paper was developed as a decision maker’s toolfor public authorities, development agencies and practitioners working to improve municipal solid waste management practices. Professor David C Wilson was one of the co-authors of the report, alongside Réka Soós, Andrew Whiteman and Cosmin Briciu of RWA and Ekkehard Schwehn of ERM Germany.

This project was part of the German Technical Cooperation Agency – GIZ’s sector project on Concepts for Sustain­able Waste Management, which is a challenge to most local and national governments in developing countries. It aimed to fill a particular knowledge gap, on the delivery of waste management services or ‘operator models’ in cities around the world. Operator models are analysed in terms of the interactions between three key institutional components: the ‘client’ responsible for ensuring provision of a reliable municipal solid waste management (MSWM) service that meets the required standard; the operator who delivers the service on-the-ground; and the revenue collector who collects fees from the users. Theanalytical framework focuses on both the physical components of MSWM and the governance aspects. Information on existing operator models was collected from some 134 case studies, of which 28 were short-listed and five examined in the field.  

The evidence suggests that all forms of ‘operator model’ for the delivery of solid waste and recycling services can be appropriate, with each model likely to be more suitable in particular ‘niches’ and according to the local circumstances. This contradicts the oft-presented view that private-sector service delivery is always better than public sector services, or that large service providers are ‘better’ than small informal sector or micro-enterprise service providers – the evidence is that all can work well given the right local conditions.  

The detailed Source Book and Guidance Paper provide much information to assist in selecting an appropriate operator model tailored to the specific requirements of a particular local situation. The key findings focus on how framework conditions determine local objectives when selecting an operator model; the characteristics of a good model; conditions and capacities influencing the choice between public and private sector, and between municipal or inter-municipal, models; and detailed comparison of options for providing specific MSWM services.