Professor David C. Wilson’s final contribution to the CIWM Journal took the form of an interview in which he looked back on his Presidential year. This web-posting also includes an index of and links to his monthly columns for the CIWM journal, many of which were ‘think-pieces’ on issues in which he has been involved for years or even decades. Among the questions covered in the final interview were: has any topic dominated the year (yes, plastics – both marine plastics and the ‘China ban’); and what would be your advice to Enda Kiernan and future CIWM Presidents (‘Be true to yourself’ – which the editor also used as this month’s headline).
Interviews and DCW’s theme for the year:
- Dec 2018: ‘Be true to yourself’. DCW looks back on his year as president. PDF attached at end of post.
- Dec 2017: A key utility service. DCW revisited his Presidential address to further explain his key themes for the year ahead. The overarching theme was to have solid waste management recognised as an essential utility service.
- Nov 2017: One small step. The editor Ben Wood introduced DCW, his story in waste and his hopes for his Presidential year. PDF attached at end of post.
- Oct 2018: Plastics – diabolic or fantastic? How to respond to the crisis of plastics entering our oceans? Which plastic uses are diabolic and which fantastic?
- Jun 2018: How to influence people. DCW reported on CIWM’s role in influencing the UK’s initiative on marine plastics which was announced at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April 2018.
- Apr 2018: China – coming full circle. In the wake of the current China-induced recycling crisis in the West, DCW gave his personal perspective on China’s journey in waste management and recycling over the last 30-40 years and moving forward…
- Feb 2018: Turning the tide. Where do plastics entering the ocean come from, and how do we turn the tide?
Promoting waste reduction and recycling:
- Sep 2018: Charge! DCW reflected on the challenges of devising the right policies to charge households for solid waste management services
- May 2018: Revaluing recycling. DCW argued that we need to rethink recycling if it is to become sustainable and proposed a framework for doing so, by considering the embodied social, environmental and technical values alongside the market price.
- Jan 2018: Inspiring reuse. DCW showcased the five inspiring projects shortlisted for Best Reuse or Waste Prevention Project at the CIWM Sustainability and Resource Awards 2017.
Waste and climate
- Jul 2018: Don’t waste our climate. DCW made the case for resource and waste management as an entry point to achieve significant climate mitigation. The article was subsequently re-published by the National Solid Waste Association of India (NSWAI) in their member journal Waste Monitor in July 2019.
- Website May 2018: Uncontrolled burning of solid waste as a significant contributor to climate change. DCW reported on current research at Imperial College London.
Tackling the global waste crisis
- Website Nov 2018: DCW awards his Presidential Medal to Mike Webster, Founder and CEO of the charity Wasteaid.
- Website Oct 2018: Tackling the global waste crisis through community waste management. DCW reported on two papers in the peer-reviewed literature, which follow-up on the CIWM-Waste aid toolkit Making Waste Work.
- Dec 2017: A key utility service. A key theme for DCW’s Presidential year was to highlight the global waste crisis, the 3 billion people who lack access to basic SWM services.
- Website Nov 2017: DCW launches toolkit for community waste management. Introducing DCW’s Presidential Report, the CIWM-Wasteaid Toolkit Making Waste Work. The Toolkit includes a dozen How-to-do-it Guides to enable local entrepreneurs to implement simple technologies using organics and low-value plastics in the waste.
Other DCW areas of interest or ‘hobby horses’:
- Aug 2018: Hazardous waste – plus ça change. DCW reflected on 40 years of involvement with hazardous waste policy, and concluded that the current and future challenges identified by CIWM’s Hazardous Waste Special Interest Group have changed relatively little over the years.
- Mar 2018: Let’s skip “the tip”. DCW argued that terms such as “the tip”, “rubbish”, “refuse” and arguably “tipping”, have no place in the vocabulary of the professional waste and resource manager.
DCW’s Presidential year at CIWM continues to be dominated by marine plastics. As part of our efforts to influence developing UK policy in this area, CIWM and Wasteaid published a report: ‘FROM THE LAND TO THE SEA: How better solid waste management can improve the lives of the world’s poorest and halve the quantity of plastic entering the oceans’. His June CIWM column reports success: the day before the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April, Theresa May announced a new Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA) backed by a £61.4 million funding package of funding to help tackle marine plastics, of which more than £20 million would help developing country members of the CCOA improve waste management at a national and city level.
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.
DCW has for the last three years chaired the Steering Committee for an interdisciplinary research project at the University of Leeds, funded jointly by the Natural Environment and Economic and Social Research Councils, to develop a new analytical framework which considers all four of these dimensions of value. The new CVORR (Complex Value Optimisation for Resource Recovery) tool should facilitate future work in this area.
What sort of solutions are suggested by applying complex value thinking? Current approaches focus on increasing the technical value of the recycled materials, for example through separation at source of individual streams rather than co-mingled materials. They also place the risk of fluctuating prices squarely on local authorities and their contractors; and they in turn plead for Government support for new recycling capacity within the UK. But even with support, such facilities need to compete in a global market, and many UK reprocessing companies have failed over the last decade. The obvious place to look for answers is the companies who place on the market the products which become waste, particularly single trip packaging. The complex value framework would suggest that a fundamental rethink of existing systems for EPR (extended producer responsibility) is required. Producers need to meet all costs for collection, sorting and recycling of their products when they become wastes; and to ensure that markets exist for the recycled materials, for example by taking an ownership stake in the reprocessing facilities and using a minimum % of those recycled materials in their products.
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.
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.