News & Updates
Europe and North America have a problem with sustainable recycling. China’s ban on imports has thrown the problem into sharp focus: where are the markets for the materials we are collecting for recycling to meet the targets? And how do local authorities balance their already curtailed budgets as prices for recycled materials plummet? DCW’s May CIWM column explores the history of recycling over the last 40 years, and concludes that our existing policy support measures, focusing on increasing supply rather than demand, are not fit for purpose. He argues that we need to rethink recycling to make it a sustainable foundation for our future circular economy; and makes the case for considering explicitly the embodied social, environmental and technical values alongside the market price.
To qualify for inclusion in the official (IPCC) inventory of greenhouse gases (GHGs), data for an emission source must meet a quality threshold. This currently excludes black carbon emissions from the open burning of wastes. The relative quantities may be small compared to carbon dioxide from fossil fuels or methane from landfill, but black carbon is around 2,000 more powerful than CO₂ as a GHG. In the absence of real data, early modelling studies using broad assumptions suggested that black carbon from open burning contributes 5% of total global GHG emissions, causing 270,000 premature deaths a year. DCW’s PhD student at Imperial College London, Natalia Reyna, has been working for the last four years to provide real data which would meet the IPCC requirements. Our first paper, published this month in the leading journal Environmental Research, presents field data from Mexico on how much solid wastes are disposed of by open burning, either by households or at uncontrolled dumpsites. The results suggest a GHG contribution from uncontrolled burning in backyards in Mexico fifteen times larger compared to methane released from the decomposition of equivalent amounts of waste in a disposal site. A future paper will present data on emission factors, i.e. how much black carbon is produced by burning a kilogram of waste.
China’s recent import ban has thrown Western recycling systems into disarray. DCW has participated as CIWM President in three regional open meetings to address the ‘China recycling crisis’. His April column for the CIWM Journal has written up his presentation, providing a personal perspective on how he has seen China’s internal resource and waste management systems develop over the last 40 years. Arguably, its 1970s system could be viewed as an early example of a circular economy. The transition to ‘market -oriented’ operations led to economic growth being prioritised over environmental protection. But the current ‘National Sword’ campaign is just one symptom of a fundamental change, suggesting that, going forward, perhaps China really could lead the world in transitioning to a circular economy.
Language matters. DCW’s March column for the CIWM Journal celebrates the dramatic improvements in waste and resource management that have been achieved since he first entered the sector in 1974. This is largely due to changes in public behaviour, which have enabled the UK, for example, to increase recycling rates over the last 20 years from just 6% to 46%. However, he questions how we can expect people’s mind set to change permanently when some local authorities, and both professionals and politicians, continue to refer to modern recycling facilities as ‘the rubbish tip’.
DCW’s February column for the CIWM Journal focused on the topical subject of marine plastics. He reported back on ‘Oceans 21’, the latest Development Finance Forum organised by the German Development Bank KfW, where he led a workshop on marine litter. The conclusions were clear: the amount of plastics entering the oceans is at least an order of magnitude greater than estimates of the visible quantities in the oceans or on beaches – so the first priority is to ‘turn off the tap’. And the most effective way to do that is to extend municipal solid waste collection in developing countries to all people and to eliminate uncontrolled dumping and burning; our best judgement was that this could reduce the weight of plastics entering the oceans by 50-70%.
DCW’s January column for the CIWM Journal showcases the five shortlisted entries for the Best Reuse Project at the CIWM Sustainability and Resource Awards 2017. As the judge for this category, DCW was inspired by the quality and sheer variety of the five very different reuse projects. He hopes that the projects will inspire others too, as we try to ensure that reuse, sitting near the top of the waste hierarchy, receives the same priority as has been given to recycling.
In his first monthly column in the CIWM Journal as CIWM President, Professor David C. Wilson has revisited his Presidential address. His overall theme for his year is solid waste management as a key utility service, underpinning modern society. Within that three strands are to avoid complacency when it comes to protecting public health and the environment; the continuing move from the linear ‘make – use – dispose’ model to a more circular economy; and the global waste crisis, with more than 3 billion people lacking access to a basic solid waste management service.
Professor David C. Wilson has been inaugurated as the 102nd President of CIWM, the UK and Irish professional body for resources and waste. He described solid waste management as one of the key utilities and said that as public sector budgets continue to come under pressure, “we must not lose sight of where we have come from, that the service exists first and foremost to protect public health”. He highlighted the ‘global waste management emergency’, where 40% of the World’s population lacks this basic utility service. He also launched his Presidential report, Making Waste Work: A Toolkit, prepared by WasteAid UK and aimed at helping unserved communities in the least developed countries to help themselves, by developing self-sustaining businesses making useful products for the local market from the resource value in their waste.
At his inauguration on 17th October 2017, Professor David C. Wilson launched his CIWM Presidential Report: Making Waste Work: A Toolkit – Community Waste Management in Low and Middle Income Countries. The aim is to help poor communities in the least developed countries, part of the 40% of the World’s population who lack access to any solid waste management services, to help themselves by developing self-sustaining businesses making useful products for the local market from the resource value in their waste. WasteAid UK have prepared this practical guidance on low cost recycling technologies, involving minimal capital investment, to help people become self-employed recycling entrepreneurs, providing a very valuable service for the health and well-being of their community, and the whole planet – as well as reducing poverty and creating sustainable livelihoods.
The German Development Bank KfW’s annual international Development Finance Forum will this year focus on the world’s oceans: Oceans 21 -Solutions for a sustainable marine future. Professor David C Wilson has been invited as the opening keynote speaker on one of the three parallel strands of the Forum, focusing on marine litter and marine plastics. The working hypothesis is that avoiding marine litter requires predominantly measures to reduce land-based sources, and of these the largest contributor by weight is inadequate solid waste management in low and middle income countries. DCW will suggest that extending waste collection to all, and eliminating open dumping of wastes, in these countries would likely reduce plastics entering the oceans by more than half.
An international workshop on community resilience and waste management will be taking place in The Gambia 25-30 April 2017. Organised jointly by the Arkleton Trust and WasteAid UK, the event will involve communities from The Gambia, Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria and India. WasteAid UK is currently undertaking David Wilson’s Presidential Project for the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), to compile practical guidance on how to provide community level waste management and how to develop waste and recycling livelihoods. The workshop will allow this guidance to be tested and developed further, ensuring it fits closely with the needs of the target users.
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.
Professor David C Wilson will speak at the CIWM Northern Ireland Conference and Exhibition on 29 March 2017 on: REUSE: Time to make things happen, based on a major CIWM report on the state of reuse across the five nations of the British Isles, published in October 2016. He will also make the keynote address at a Red Hot Topics Open Meeting of CIWM’s South-West Centre on April 7 2017, when his topic will be: UK waste and resource management in a global context – CIWM’s role in addressing future challenges.
Professor David C Wilson will be a keynote speaker at the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum’s Seminar on 10 January 2017 on The future for waste and recycling policy in the UK. DCW’s subject will be The policy context for waste and the circular economy. Timed to follow a year on from the introduction of the EU Circular Economy package of reforms, the seminar will discuss the next steps for implementing measures to improve resource efficiency and the future for the waste sector in the UK. A particular focus for discussion on the day will likely be on the impacts of Brexit.
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.
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.
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 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.