Sustainable Solid Waste Management & the Green Economy

Globally there are considerable differences in waste management practices. In some regions, formal services for the collection of waste are absent (or limited) and when waste is collected the prevailing practice is uncontrolled open dumping causing social, health and environmental risks. To quantify the situation, around half of the world’s population has no access to waste services and around a ¼ of the world’s waste is wantonly dumped. At the other end of the scale highly sophisticated integrated and sustainable waste management practices exist where waste is considered and used as a resource and only very small quantities of waste remains and is safely disposed.

Sound investment in waste management infrastructure, equipment and services that support the local economy, utilise local expertise and minimise environmental and social costs can be costly, but their absence can be equally as costly. A poorly managed waste system imposes social and environmental costs and economic losses, whereas a properly functioning resource management/waste system brings benefit across all of these elements. Many of the best strategies for waste reduction, recycling and composting produce benefits for a quadruple bottom line – they require less capital investment, create more jobs and sustain more livelihoods, protect public health, provide secondary material to production processes and minimise CO2 emissions.

For the waste sector to support the progression toward a Green Economy not only do we need to maximise resource efficiency giving consideration to the whole lifecycle of products (cradle to cradle approach) but also the way we value enterprises where factors such as the creation of sustainable employment and protection of the environment are valued alongside economic growth and profit.

Sustainable Solid Waste Management & the Green Economy