In the wake of the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria and elsewhere, a British design engineer who developed a mobile method to manage waste believes it’s now a life-line to growing numbers of refugee camps.
Design engineer, Andy Ive originally created the mobile recycling facility for the remotest desert locations of the Sahara, where make-shift camps sprang up around the oil and construction industry. Instructed to bury waste material in the sand, Ive instead invented a unit to minimise environmental impact.
Like those sites, the refugee camps are often hastily constructed, ill equipped, have limited resources, and are damaging to the surrounding sensitive eco systems.
Failure to recycle the vast waste being generated he says, potentially poses significant health and environmental consequences in the future.
Housed in a standard shipping container, Ive’s facilities are said to be easily transported and robust for any location, from the harshest of deserts to the coldest of climates.
Turning plastic water bottles into reusable bricks, the self-powered mobile recycling facility comes complete with the necessary equipment for segregation, compacting and recycling mixed waste at source.
With wars and persecution worsening the refugee crisis, we now have displaced more people than at any time since the UN High Commission for Refugee’s records began. It now stands at 65.3 million people (a tally greater than the population of the UK, Australia and New Zealand combined), with 34,000 displaced every day.
Ive is offering expertise and trying to urge governments, UN agencies and NGOs to utilise practical and economical solutions for effective humanitarian waste management in the camps.
He believes adopting such mobile technology could immediately reduce the impact of poor sanitation and significantly improve living conditions in the camps as well as benefitting the environment in the longer term.
“Internationally, refugee management appears to have largely overlooked the potential of recycling and waste on make-shift sites, be that as a result of natural disasters or, as we are sadly witnessing every day, forced displacement worldwide through wars and persecution,” said Ives.
“For decades there has been an overwhelming response to the more immediate threats of hunger and disease, with much less focus on the strain and long term damage caused to fragile eco-systems too. With many millions of refugees, we are now failing to address the impact that inadequate waste management could have on health and the environment,” added the designer.
Keen to provide both environmental and humanitarian assistance, Ive has partnered with the Disaster Management Centre at Bournemouth University, to try to promote the importance of waste management and the use of practical, clean technologies in emergency situations to multiple agencies.
He hopes to strengthen a more global and mainstream approach to the environmental impact of response and recovery.
Whilst the prodigious scale and distribution of refugee populations is creating increasingly complex environmental impacts on land, as well as local resource degradation, Ive believes that in addition to environmental benefits the MRF facility can also increase morale in refugee camps, as plastic bottles become reusable building materials.
First Hand Experience
Ive said that he has witnessed camps first-hand, travelling to Syria with the UN in an advisory capacity, and understands that waste management poses significant challenges, but with no sign of the global problems abating he is firmly committed to promoting the benefits of a mobile recycling facility to multiple emergency agencies.
“Amid the plight of people struggling to survive in the wake of chaos, carnage and harrowing conditions, it makes practical and humanitarian sense to provide this simple infrastructure which can also restore some feeling of self-sufficiency and community in using the recycled bricks for temporary building,” he concluded.
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