Editor in Chief, Waste Management World
Day 2 of this year’s ISWA World Congress opened with an interesting panel comprised of senior managers of various waste management companies: Mazen Chebaklo, CEO of Averda (UAE), Louis de Poncheville, Senior VP Waste Business Development at SUEZ, Özgur Umut Eroglu, CEO of Biotrend (Turkey) and Aditya Handa, Founder and MD Abellon Group (India) as well as ISWA president Carlos Silva Filho. Talking about “the next billion tonnes” the industry expert discussed the main challenges the waste management industry will face in the future and how the sector will be able to deal with.
The ISWA President put it in a nutshell: “For decades we focused on how to improve recycling but we have not looked at how to design better products”, he said. “We need to change our focus one step before waste management and look at the whole value chain. As of now we are only touching the surface.”
Much has been talked about AI driven and IoT supported technology to improve sorting and recycling processes as well as collection systems. Portuguese company LIPOR looked at how the IoT can enhance health and safety in waste management operations. Researcher and Project Manager Telmo Machado presented a the company developed a wearable sensor that waste workers can attach to their belt. The wireless device can detect hazardous atmospheres, calls help in case of accidents as well as analyses collected data. Its use is not limited to the waste management sector.
There still is no uniform definition of household hazardous waste (HHW), as Gideon Sagoe, Research & Innovation Lead at Waste Landfills Company Limited in Ghana explained in his presentation. Together with co-author Peter Kwei Dagadu he conducted a study gauging the knowledge level and its implication for domestic handling and disposing practices of HHW. They looked at the Greater Accra Metro Area with its population of 4.9 million. The waste generated – medication/drugs, batteries, paints and solvents, disposable sharps, aerosol compressed cans, fluorescent tubes, LED bulbs, pest control chemicals, electronic waste (all produced within a month) – were generally disposed of with the regular household waste posing environmental and health risks – especially for waste collectors and waste pickers.
But, HHW management is totally absent in the waste management architecture, as Sagoe said: “There is very low awareness of the hazards of this sort of waste.” Adding that tailored awareness campaigns but also comprehensive policies, enforcement and the implementation of separate collection schemes is needed.
This session was followed by another Ghana-centric one. Rebecca Yandam, senior research officer ad Zoomlion Ghana Limited talked about the drivers if individuals littering behaviour in public space in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area, Ghana.
In her research she found out, that the majority of people littering where male and youth (20-29 years). Most of the disposal happened within 6 or even 1 meter of a bin.
Group size as well as composition matters. The bigger the group, the more likely individuals would litter. In uniform – speak all male groups – individuals are more likely to dispose of trash carelessly than in mixed-sex groups.
To address the problem of littering, Rebecca Yandam said it is important to that future policies look at the cultural context. “In Ghana people are educated to depend on their elders. Even a forty year old man with a family cannot move into a house of his own, if his father would not allow it”, she explained. “In this sense central authorities are the parents and local authorities are the children. They will only act if the parent authorities tell them to.”
She also stressed that people see litter as a source of employment. Many young people are unemployed and collecting waste from the streets is a source of income for them.
In the focus session on open burning of waste, Sandra Mazo-Nix, CCC, Hazel Ingham, Engineering X, Aditi Ramola, ISWA, Miho Hayashi, IFES and Shiza Aslam, KSBL discussed a new project that is focused on creating the enabling conditions for the elimination of open burning of waste through regional roadmaps and city pilots.
As Hazel Ingham stated: “There is still not enough awareness why it is necessary to end open burning.” But: Over 90 per cent of waste in low-income countries, where there is very little or no waste management infrastructure, is openly dumped or burned. “It affects the most vulnerable,” Ingham said. “So it is widely practiced but neglected on all levels.”
Even though waste burning is caused by the lack of a waste management system or services, there are also some other points to consider, as Shiza Aslam pointed out. She conducted a survey in Karachi and Lahore, cities with a population of 24 million and 12 million respectively asking for the reasons of open burning and if the public is aware that certain health issues are connected to it.
She found out that some communities used open burning to protect itself from flies that came with the waste. Also for many open burning is considered the better option than landfill.
As a conclusion, she said, that is essential to raise awareness of the health risks of open burning, educate the public and improve infrastructure.
The Women of Waste Task Force – short WOW! – represented by Georgina Nitzsch, Maria Tsakona, and Delila Khaled presented their recent global survey on women in the industry. The main question of the survey was: What do women need to thrive in this sector?
The answers are hardly surprising but important to communicate: Women want to have more networking opportunities; flexible work hours; empowerment to feel less self-conscious in this still male dominated industry and opportunities to gain experience aka the inclusion in projects.
As Delila Khaled showed in her presentation, the world is faced with an evergrowing amount of waste. “How we produce and consume goods and dispose of results in 45 per cent GHG emissions,” she said. “But what’s this to do with women, you might ask. Women are agents of change! In the households they drive consumption and disposal and the willingness to change the lifestyle. On boards they drive stronger ESG commitment.”
So, as Georgina Nitzsche added: “Investing in women is not a nice to have, it’s a must do!”