Globally, the solid waste of 3 billion people is not managed in controlled facilities and therefore negatively impacting on the health of the surrounding communities as well as the environment. Assuming an average solid waste generation rate of 0.74 kilogram per person a day, this means that every day 2.2 million tonnes (2,200,000,000 kilograms) of solid waste are either being directly dumped into streets and public spaces, water bodies and forests, or being collected and transported to waste facilities that are not operated or built in an environmentally sound manner. Some of the uncollected or mismanaged waste is finding its way to water bodies, reaching the seas and oceans and contributing to global marine litter pollution. And through fish and similar, they find their way back to our bodies, posing still unknown risks to our health.
In the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the shortcomings of our solid waste management systems become even more apparent, as discarded healthcare waste from households (e.g. used masks and gloves) is mingling with the municipal solid waste stream, and if not properly managed, posing additional health risks. Already before the pandemic it was estimated that in between 400,000 and one million people a year die from diseases caused by mismanaged waste, such as diarrhoea, malaria, heart diseases and cancer. This equals one person dying every 30 to 80 seconds.
In a recent needs assessment study carried out as part of the Waste Wise Cities Programme of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), as well as the African Clean Cities Platform, with officials from local governments and waste management practitioners, the 3rd most cited hindrance for delivering effective solid waste management was “limited knowledge on how to deliver the tasks” (right after lack of financial and human resources respectively). When asked for topics for capacity building, 80% of participating government stakeholders indicated a high interest in waste management operations, and 70% in technologies for waste recovery and recycling.
Therefore, UN-Habitat and the Wuppertal Institute, under the Urban Pathways Project, are diving deep into selected waste management technologies during this webinar series. The presented technologies are supposed to give local and regional government officials, as well as interested stakeholders, an overview of available technology options. However, before implementing technologies, stakeholders should always assess the compatibility with their local situation.