Tackling the global waste crisis through community waste management

According to the UNEP and ISWA’s Global Waste Management Outlook (GWMO), three billion people lack access to basic solid waste management (SWM) services; addressing this global waste crisis would not only vastly improve their lives but also halve the weight of plastics entering the oceans. Professor David C Wilson and Mike Webster of Wasteaid made the case earlier this year, in an open access editorial in the ISWA journal Waste Management & Research, for community waste management as a ‘bottom up’ approach, to run in parallel to traditional ‘top-down’ approaches led by donors and governments.

Community waste management aims to help local communities in the poorest countries, where the local authority often has no funds to provide a SWM service, to tackle the problem themselves through the resource value in the wastes. If, for example, food wastes or low-value plastics are kept separate, they can be turned into new, useful products. With simple tools and the right knowledge, people can become self-employed recycling entrepreneurs, providing a very valuable service for the health and wellbeing of their community, and the whole planet – as well as reducing poverty and creating sustainable livelihoods.

One of the gaps identified by the GWMO was for practical guidance on such low-cost ‘waste to wealth’ technologies which involve minimal capital investment and make products to sell in a local market. DCW’s CIWM Presidential Report aimed to plug that gap: Wasteaid prepared a Toolkit, including a dozen How-to-do-it Guides for simple technologies using organics and low-value plastics.

While preparing the Toolkit, we identified a parallel requirement, for the scientific underpinning of some of the technologies. This month sees the publication of a paper on optimising the technology for producing plastic bonded sand blocks, for use e.g. as paving slabs, from the low value LDPE film plastic, which is a major problem even in the least-developed countries. Our team at Imperial College London was led by Professor Chris Cheeseman, with the laboratory research carried out by Alexander Kumi-Larbi Jnr and Danladi Yunana. The technology was developed by another co-authors, Pierre Kamsouloum, a self-taught entrepreneur from the Cameroun.

Hazardous Waste – Plus ça Change

CIWM President, and Chair of CIWM’s Hazardous Waste Special Interest Group (SIG), David C Wilson reflects in his August CIWM column on the challenges facing hazardous waste management in the UK and Ireland – past, present and future. His review with the SIG of current challenges suggests that not much has changed over the 44 years of his involvement with the hazardous waste sector. In particular, the UK continues to lack the ‘regulatory certainty’ which is necessary to secure the investment required in hazardous waste management infrastructure if such investment is left entirely to ‘the market’. And looking at the island of Ireland in particular, the uncertainties around Brexit do not help.


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 wins three publication awards


The ISWA 2015 Awards

The 2015 ISWA Awards before the presentation ceremony. They were designed and made by the upcycling sculptor Evy Puelinckx from found materials.

Professor David C Wilson and his co-authors have won three prestigious publication awards. Their paper ‘Wasteaware’ benchmark indicators to measure the performance of a city’s SWM system won two awards for the best paper published in 2014-15: the 2015 ISWA Publication Award and CIWM’s 2014-15 James Jackson Medal. The earlier 2012 paper in the same series, Comparative Analysis of Solid Waste Management in 20 Cities, won the inaugural WM&R Best Paper Award 2014, for the most cited paper published in the previous two years in the ISWA peer-reviewed journal Waste Management & Research.

The ISWA Publication Award citation noted that the ‘Wasteaware’ paper ‘… contributes to one of the major issues in … solid waste management (SWM) in developed and developing countries … has the potential to assist many countries in the world (in) developing sustainable and integrated SWM strategies.’ The two ISWA awards were presented at the ISWA 2015 World Congress in Antwerp on Tuesday 08 September, when DCW received two trophies designed and made by the upcycling sculptor Evy Puelinckx. The James Jackson Medal will be presented at the annual CIWM Sustainability and resource Awards at the London Marriott on 5 November 2015.

Professor David C Wilson, Ljiljana Rodic, Costas Velis and Anne Scheinberg are co-authors of both papers. The remaining co-authors of the Wasteaware indicators paper are Mike Cowing, Andy Whiteman, Recaredo Vilches, Darragh Masterson, Barbara Oelz and Joachim Stretz; and of the 20 Cities paper, Graham Alabaster.

UNEP launch their Global Waste Management Outlook

Professor David C Wilson, the editor-in-chief, presented UNEP’s Global Waste Management Outlook (GWMO) at its launch at the ISWA World Congress in Antwerp on Monday 7th September. The GWMO provides the first comprehensive global overview of the state of waste management around the world in the 21st century. It sets out a series of five Global Waste Management Goals and a call for action addressed to individuals, businesses, governments and the international community. There are three main GWMO Outputs, with the main report of around 300 pages being accompanied by an 8-page infographic Summary for Decision Makers and a 2-page flyer for a general audience. The main report can be downloaded here, and the summaries (plus the latest Regional Waste Managment Outlooks) here.

Waste management is a key utility service and a critical element of the infrastructure that underpins Society – it is often rated in the top three priorities faced by developing country cities – but, tends also to be ‘taken for granted’ and does not often appear towards the top of national or international political agendas. This was recognised at the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Summit in 2012, following which the UNEP Governing Council requested UNEP: ‘to develop a global outlook of challenges, trends and policies in relation to waste prevention, minimization and management … to provide guidance for national policy planning’.

Waste management is a cross-cutting issue impacting on many aspects of society and the economy. It has strong linkages to a range of other global challenges such as health, climate change, poverty reduction, food and resource security and sustainable production and consumption. The five Global Waste Management Goals set out in the GWMO are all to be found within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (agreed by the world’s leaders in New York just a couple of weeks after the launch of the GWMO), but making progress toward them would contribute to achieving 11 out of 17 SDGs.

The GWMO estimates that around 2 billion people worldwide lack access to a basic waste collection service, while around 3 billion lack access to controlled disposal services for municipal solid wastes. So the first two Global Waste Management Goals are to ensure by 2020 access for all, to adequate, safe and affordable solid waste collection services; and (2) to stop uncontrolled dumping and open burning. Goal 3 takes this one step further, by 2030 to achieve sustainable and environmentally sound management of all wastes, particularly hazardous wastes. As part of the Global Call for Action, the GWMO is calling on the international community to mobilise international aid, and environmental and climate funds, to assist the poorest countries to provide basic waste services to all in urban areas. Specifically, to increase the proportion of funding directed to waste management by a factor of 10, from the 0.3% achieved over the last decade.

The remaining Global Waste Management Goals focus: (4) on ensuring by 2030 a substantial reduction in waste generation through prevention and the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), thereby creating green jobs; and more specifically, (5) cutting by a half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses in the supply chain.

The technologies required to ‘solve’ the waste problem are largely already available, and have been much written about. The GWMO has chosen rather to focus primarily on the less fashionable ‘governance’ issues which need to addressed to establish a sustainable solution –including the regulatory and other policy instruments, the partnerships and, crucially, the financing arrangements– and to provide a ‘toolkit’ to be used in developing a solution appropriate to the local situation.

The GWMO has been prepared by an international team for UNEP’s International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) and ISWA. It is the result of two year’s work, including broad international peer review of three main drafts. The team was headed up by DCW as editor-in chief and lead author. The lead author of the data review chapter was Dr Prasad Modak, EMC India; waste governance, Dr Ljiljana Rodic, Wageningen University; and waste financing, Reka Soos, RWA Romania. Other co-authors were Ainhoa Carpintero, IETC (project manager); Dr Costas Velis, University of Leeds (Academic advisor); Professor Mona Iyer, CEPT University, India (Case study editor) ; and Otto Simonett, Zoi Environment (Communications advisor).

Official launch of the GWMO

Official launch of the GWMO

Madam Oyun launching the GWMO

Madam Oyun launching the GWMO

DCW presenting the GWMO at the Ministerial launch

DCW presenting the GWMO at the Ministerial launch

DCW launching the GWMO

DCW launching the GWMO