ISWA World Congress Heads to Asia : A Brief History of the International Solid Waste Association’s World Congress

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With its 2018 World Congress taking place in Asia for the first time in seven years, the International Solid Waste Association’s Daniel Purchase looks back at the history of the event.

The 2018 ISWA World Congress is heading back to Asia. ISWA is incredibly excited to see so many familiar faces and reach out to a new audience in the region this October for ISWA 2018 in Kuala Lumpur.

The annual ISWA World Congress is an opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of counterparts and colleagues from around the world, learn about new technologies, connect and share ideas. It is also about networking and making friends; many great links have been established between ISWA members internationally through our most important annual conference. But why do so many people from across the world come to the ISWA World Congress in increasing numbers?

Looking back at the history of the ISWA World Congress

Since ISWA was founded in 1970, exactly 48 years ago, there have been 34 congresses in 25 different countries around the world. Over this period, the congress has developed and grown beyond recognition.

The very first ISWA World Congress took place in Prague, then Czechoslovakia in 1972. At that time ISWA Congresses were held on a quadrennial basis, syncing with the four-year term of ISWA Presidents. Given the significant interest in solid waste management around the world, the Congresses became an annual event, beginning with Copenhagen, Denmark in 1988.

John Skinner, ISWA President 1992-1996, attended his first World Congress in London, U.K. 1980 and has attended every year since then with one exception – Melbourne, 2003. He has witnessed substantial changes in the nature and format of the congress in this period. “Throughout the years, I have seen a tremendous growth and change in the ISWA Annual World Congress. In the earlier years, the focus was mainly on public cleansing issues in major cities” John told us. “Accordingly, the Congresses have expanded to cover a wide range of international issues including resource management, renewable resources, marine litter, climate change, extended producer responsibility, the circular economy, conversion technologies, closing dumpsites and much more.”

Over these years, the ISWA World Congress has developed to become a truly first-class international event, as Honorary Member Derek Greedy can testify “The Congress for me has gone from strength to strength with an ever-improving scientific content as well as increasingly more case studies from which to learn and provide potential solutions for others. Over the years there has been a greater involvement from developing countries where the opportunity to improve local practice and improve the quality of life is clear.”

Håkan Rylander, ISWA President, 1996-98 has been to every single congress since Padua, Italy in 1976. It was there that he realised the importance of networking and its importance in the daily work of waste management professionals. “I enjoyed very much attending my first ISWA Congress and was even more convinced of the importance of international cooperation. After Padua; I have visited every congress since.” He also recognised the positive growth of the congress “The programmes, the presentations and the contents of the World Congresses have very much changed and improved since my first World Congress. Today, there are parallel sessions - sometimes too many - with papers and presentations of a very high quality, there are many more participants, a lot of opportunities of networking and the World Congresses are now well-recognised and acknowledged by governments, international authorities and organisations. The World Congress in Antwerp in 2015 was an excellent proof of all this.”

In more recent years, the congress has targeted a more diverse audience by raising the bar in terms of entertainment and social activity. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2014 we saw the “ISWA|World Cup” – a football tournament for delegates in the extraordinary Pacaembu Football Stadium. The trophy still sits proudly in the ISWA Offices in Vienna. The following year, Antwerp, Belgium 2015 took on the challenge and kick-started the congress with a spectacular performance from the Royal Ballet of Flanders with the very special guest Princess Astrid of Belgium joining the opening ceremony. Other recent highlights include a unique party at a baseball stadium, home of the Baltimore Orioles in USA 2017 and an opening ceremony presented by a Game of Thrones Star in Novi Sad, Serbia 2016.]

Since 2010, ISWA’s prestigious annual awards ceremony has played a key part at the World Congress, with three key awards in the categories of Publication, Communications and Video being presented at the annual Gala Dinner, normally at the mid-point of the congress. The ISWA Gala Dinner is now one of the most exciting and highly anticipated dates on the calendars of the ISWA Network. Each event comes with its own unique entertainment and flair, with some of the many highlights including a garden party in Florence (2012), dinner at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna (1995) and an evening reception on Lake Ontario, Toronto (1991).

There are some very exciting plans in place for the ISWA 2018 and ISWA looks forward to welcoming you in Malaysia, a diverse country rich in culture and tradition and one of most dynamic and forward-thinking countries in the region.

What can you expect in Kuala Lumpur? ISWA 2018 promises to deliver a world-class, future-orientated technical programme focusing on some of the fundamental issues of our time. Topics such as marine litter, resource efficiency and circular economy will be tied together under the theme of Sustainable Consumption towards Waste Minimization, focused on driving strategic change and technological innovation toward sustainable consumption solutions whilst reducing our ecological footprint. ​

Not only is this a chance to share ideas and learn about the latest innovations in waste management, but also a great opportunity to do business and build new partnerships in Southeast Asia - one of the world’s fastest growing and maturing markets.

See you in Kuala Lumpur in October!