The incoming President of the UK’s Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), Professor David C. Wilson, highlighted how critical resource and waste management is to public health and the environment on a global scale.
Making his inaugural speech at a reception in London, he described solid waste management as one of the key utilities and said that as public sector budgets continue to come under pressure, “we must not lose sight of where we have come from, that the service exists first and foremost to protect public health”.
Outlining the importance of legislation in the substantial progress that has been made in the sustainable and safe management of waste since the early 1970s, Professor Wilson added that there can be no softening of the regulatory framework.
“Two major priorities for CIWM are to ensure that following Brexit we have continuity of the strong regulations on which the very existence of the waste and resources industry depends, and the continuing fight against waste crime,” he explained. “An important part of that regulatory underpinning is health and safety and CIWM is also committed to reducing the unacceptable fatality rates in the industry.”
While continuity is important on one hand, Professor Wilson went on to talk about the step change in approach to resources and waste that is happening, and he called for a “necessary parallel focus on the 3Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle – and on the shift from the linear model to a circular economy where resource efficiency and productivity is key”. An integrated and inclusive approach will be needed, he said, as well as a balanced set of policy drivers.
In moving beyond the domestic picture to launch the 2017/18 CIWM Presidential Report Making Waste Work: A Toolkit - Community Waste Management in Low and Middle Income Countries, Professor Wilson referenced UNEP & ISWA’s 2015 Global Waste Management Outlook (GWMO) and the stark picture it paints of conditions in many low and middle income countries where:
- 2 billion people have no waste collection at all and the waste of over 3 billion people is either dumped or subject to uncontrolled burning;
- children growing up in households without waste collection have double the rate of diarrhoea and six times the rate of acute respiratory infection (linked to open burning – see Notes to Editors); and
- uncollected waste and open dumping in the coastal towns and cities of developing countries could be contributing more than half of the plastics entering the oceans.
Describing this as no less than a “global waste emergency”, Professor Wilson also sees it as important opportunity for the international community:
“If we can increase the proportion of existing international development finance being directed at SWM from the current, fairly derisory, 0.3% to just 3% up to 2030, as recommended in the GWMO, then not only can we extend waste collection to all and eliminate open dumping and burning of waste, but due to the cross-cutting nature of waste management, we can also make progress against no fewer than 12 out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals agreed by world leaders to achieve a sustainable future for our planet.
“CIWM is active through our membership of the International Solid Waste Association ISWA in campaigning both for that 3% of development finance target, and also specifically for the short-term closure of the 50 largest dumpsites in the world.”
However, such international initiatives take time, which leaves countless communities around the world where the local authorities have no funds to provide even the most basic waste management service. It is to help such communities that Professor Wilson chose for his Presidential Report a particular gap highlighted by the GWMO, for practical guidance on low-cost ‘waste to wealth’ technologies which involve minimal capital investment and help communities turn their waste into useful products to sell locally.
“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,” he explained.
Presenting highlights from the Making Waste Work, Mike Webster, chief executive of the charity https://www.ciwm.co.uk/ciwm/news-and-insight/reports-and-research/ciwm/news-and-insight/reports-and-research
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