Prof David C Wilson is the scientific co-ordinator for the ISWA Task Force which has been tasked to report to the 2012 World Congress in Florence on a number of major challenges posed to the long-term sustainability of waste management by increasing globalisation. He is also co-leading, with his Imperial College colleague Dr Costas Velis, the Task Force’s work on the informal recycling sector in developing countries, which is one of his long-standing research interests. This part of the work kicked-off with an international workshop in Buenos Aires, held alongside the ISWA Beacon Conference on Waste Prevention and Recycling, on 21-23 June, 2011. November 2012 update: A July 2012 progress report, a general paper and a peer-reviewed paper on the  informal sector integration work were all published for the Florence Conference. An update on DCW’s informal sector related activities is also available.

The impacts of globalisation on waste management are a major concern for the International Solid Wastes Association (ISWA), bringing new and unprecedented challenges for the long-term sustainability of both material resources and society. Recognising these substantial changes for solid waste management, ISWA established the Globalisation and Waste Management (GWM) Task Force (TF) in September 2010. The TF aims to examine and make recommendations on a range of issues arising from the interaction between globalisation and waste management, including for example the dependence of Europe and North America on exporting materials to Asia for recycling in order to sustain their high recycling rates. The TF will present its interim findings to the ISWA World Congress in Florence in September 2012.

One focus for the ISWA GWM TF is to investigate and address the issues around informal sector waste management activities. Many developing country cities aspire to modern waste management systems, a key feature of which is their high recycling rates of clean, source separated materials, driven in large part by the need to find a cost-effective alternative to expensive anddifficult to site waste treatment and disposal facilities. Most low-income cities already have informal sector recycling systems, which are driven solely by the revenues derived from selling recovered materials, even though they are saving the formal sector money by reducing waste quantities. There is clear potential for ‘win-win’ co-operation between the formal and informal sectors, as providing support to the informal sector, to build recycling rates and to address some of the social issues, could reduce the overall costs of waste management for the formal sector.

This part of the work kicked-off with an international workshop onIntegrating informal sector recyclers into waste management in developing countries, which was held in Buenos Aires, alongside the ISWA Beacon Conference on Waste Prevention and Recycling, 21-23 June, 2011. The opening presentation by Costas Velis and DCW explored global experiences, and looked at Key steps towards effective inclusion in 21st century SWM systems. They also gave a keynote presentation at a Clinton Global Initiative meeting on the Informal Waste Sector in New York on 19 September 2011, entitled: Informal sector recycling at the crossroads – challenges of stakeholder systems. Click here to see a November 2012 update on progress.