MICHAEL WEBSTER & ZOE LENKIEWICZ, WasteAid UK
Dealing with waste is an urgent public health priority
- Within waste lies opportunity. One quarter of the world’s population live without having their garbage picked up.
- In order to manage waste we must understand it. We need to know what is inside it, where, when, and how it is produced.
- Kids growing up in dirty environments are less likely to become the doctors, nurses and teachers that their countries need to develop.
- Burning plastic is strongly discouraged as it gives off noxious gasses that have proven links to cancer, skin diseases, eye problems, and breathing difficulties
- The cost to society of not managing waste is 5-10 times more than implementing a simple waste management system.
In terms of sustainable development, waste management is a very effective way of improving the situation for a lot of people. We go so far to say that implementing decent waste management can actually help deliver all 17 of the global sustainable development goals
The impacts caused by uncollected waste:
- Pollution of: farmland the air we breathe, drinking water, lakes, rivers, canals, wildlife areas & tourist attractions
- Health risks: children’s growth stunted, cholera & diarrhoea, eye & skin infections, respiratory & reproductive health problems, polluted air, water, & food
- Economic costs: social ill health & unrest, cleaning polluted areas, flooding due to blocked drains, climate change emissions, damage to livestock & wildlife, loss of business & tourism
We can create value from waste: when something has value, it is no longer waste, it is a resource.
- Reduce: say no to things you don’t need, avoid single use disposable items, repair or find other uses for things
- Recycle: sell materials to a middleman, transform materials into more valuable products (crocheted bags), reprocess into new items (paving tiles), compost food waste
- Recover energy: produce biogas from processed food waste and manure, transform woody waste, plant shells and dry leaves into low-smoke charcoal
Important Things To Think About While Working With Waste:
- What is in the waste? Whats the supply of materials, can you get those materials regularly?
- Can you do it yourself or would it be better to collect and sell the materials to an existing processor?
- What is your process and is there demand for the product?
- How can you make the most money from your activities?
Other Things To Think About:
- Keep face, hands, arms and legs covered, wear sensible footwear and wash your hands before eating or drinking
- Focus on avoiding transportation and instead make it into a material/product locally that also has a local market.
- What is the cost? Do you need land for the process? Do you need electricity? Do you need to gain any new skills? Is there a market locally? Can you minimize transport?
- How will you manage what is left over? Control, contain, cover; locating and building a simple, safe landfill site where you can control the waste, contain it and keep it covered so vermin cant access it.
It is really important that we work together to find better ways to manage this material and in so doing, we can create jobs and create a healthier environment for everybody.