DCW was sent a copy of Practical Action’s new reportManaging Our Wastes 2021’ a few weeks ago and invited to write an endorsement for it. Having read and reviewed it, I was happy to do so; the report was launched today in a webinar hosted by UN-Habitat. The full text of what I wrote appears after the foreword by Practical Action’s Patron, Prince Charles.

Solid waste management is the ‘Cinderella’ among the essential utility services. Despite the crisis of some 40 per cent of the world’s population having no access, it has received very limited attention from either international agencies or mainstream development charities. I have been supporting Practical Action for nearly 50 years, so I warmly welcome this important new report which fills that gap. Most development work tackles the issue from the ‘top down’, and often focuses on (large scale) infrastructure. Much of my work over the last 25 years has focused on expanding performance assessment and planning of SWM systems in developing countries to include governance (including stakeholder inclusivity) alongside technical aspects; and to consider the often ‘informal’ recycling sector alongside ‘formal’ municipal waste management. Practical Action has taken that one step further, to strengthen the ‘bottom-up’, people-centred aspects. Sustainable waste and resource management needs to work for the poorest people, providing both a quality service which keeps slum areas clean and healthy, and a decent livelihood for the multitude of workers who deliver collection and recycling services. Both the revised assessment methods, the four insightful case studies and the four priority themes work well. I commend to you this important new manifesto to put people back at the centre of how we manage our solid wastes.’

Professor David C. Wilson. Visiting Professor in Resource and Waste Management, Imperial College London; Lead author of UNEP’s Global Waste Management Outlook