Disaster Waste : IFAT Eurasia: Panel discussion on disaster waste management

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ISWA has been active on Disaster Waste Management for many years, and views its role as a network to disseminate the gained knowledge and experience in emergency situations as a critical component in mitigating the effects of disasters and building more resilient communities. After a workshop earlier on the first day of the IFAT Eurasia exhibition in Istanbul, a panel session was held with Dr Sophia Ghanimeh who led the workshop, along with representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Istanbul Municipality who also participated in the workshop.

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Key points of disaster waste management

During the panel session, Dr. Sophia Ghanimeh made a presentation on disaster waste and emphasized the challenges of mixed waste generated during disasters, particularly when mixed with hazardous materials. She stressed that such mixtures make material recovery nearly impossible at later stages. Contingency planning, prioritization, and coordination in disaster waste management are crucial for better long-term outcomes. She also discussed the importance of addressing health risks associated with waste, such as asbestos exposure and the biodegradation of organic materials, which can cause severe health risks if not managed properly.

Dr. Ghanimeh further highlighted the importance of documentation and continually updating disaster waste management plans to increase resilience. While disasters are unpredictable, learning from each event and incorporating those lessons into future plans can significantly improve disaster response. Central coordination plays a vital role in ensuring coherent decision-making at a systemic level, and disaster waste plans should cover immediate, short, medium, and long-term actions.

Lively discussion

Ms. Esra Erdogan from the Ministry of Environment discussed the complexities of waste disposal, highlighting ongoing efforts to remove rubble and recover materials from the earthquake zones. Construction debris poses a significant challenge, and a board consisting of representatives from three universities is studying the issue of how to best deal with it and where it should be temporarily stored or disposed of as necessary. She mentioned that 'twin' cities have been helpful in relief efforts and transporting waste, and training from Japan has aided in addressing waste management concerns.

Istanbul Municipality representatives shared insights on their estimations on the necessary waste management capacity treatment space in case of another earthquake. There are also taking into consideration medical waste planning, drawing on lessons from the pandemic on the sudden increase of such waste during emergency situations. The need for landfill sites and an inventory of equipment for waste transportation and sorting was also discussed. In particular for medical waste, it was emphasized the importance of treating medical waste separately from other waste types, and to develop plans for scenarios that should include more open logistics areas.

Disaster waste panel IFAT Eurasia
The participants of the panel on disaster waste management. - © ISWA

In response to an audience question about waste being transferred to protected nature sites, the environment ministry representative acknowledged that mistakes can be made in emergency situations with waste management coordination but emphasized the commitment to learning from these errors and correcting them. Dr. Sophia concluded the panel with the last question on community involvement by highlighting the importance of community communication and outreach in disaster waste management issues to ensure safety and that lessons learned in the past are carried on to future emergency situations. Continuous reminders and education for the population should be part of contingency planning moving forward.

Thanks for the support

ISWA would like to thank all the presenters and speakers involved in the panel session for their contributions and support in making this event possible. Special thanks to Dr. Tamer Ataburut from Bogazici University who moderated the panel, and Prof. Gunay Kocasoy for her opening statements as well as the support of the Turkish National Committee on Solid Wastes (ISWA National Member for Turkey) during the planning.