Urban Waste Management Issues
The conditions, issues and problems of urban waste management in the
industrialized and developing worlds are different. Though the developed
countries generate larger amounts of wastes, they have developed
adequate facilities, competent government institutions and bureaucracies
to manage their wastes. Developing countries are still in the transition
towards better waste management but they currently have insufficient
collection and improper disposal of wastes. Clear government policies
and competent bureaucracies for management of solid wastes are needed
urgently especially in countries where there is rapid population growth
through urbanization into peri-urban areas. Services and programmes that
include proper waste disposal for management of hazardous biological and
chemical wastes, minimisation and recycling will be needed. Disposal of
wastes is commonly done by dumping (on land or into water bodies),
incineration or long term storage in a secured facility. All these
methods have varying degrees of negative environmental impacts with
adverse environmental and health risks if wastes are improperly disposed
- Waste management in developing countries must emphasize and be linked
to the creation of jobs, poverty alleviation and community
Too often authorities in poor Third World cities seek to imitate the
technology and equipment used in developed countries. This is misguided
and linked to corruption through kickbacks from purchases of transport
fleet or from contractors. Often does not make economic and social sense
for the poor. For example, there is often an informal sector of refuse
collectors and scavengers that has developed their livelihoods from
collection and sales of materials. They minimise the volume of wastes to
be collected for disposal. Adoption of waste management systems from
developed countries will reduce access of garbage and displace such
informal refuse collectors and scavengers, who end up poorer than before
the “development” plan was implemented. Further, households in many
developing countries do not sort their garbage (as done in
industrialised countries) and so the adopted technology will simply
collect to dispose all wastes without recovery of reusables and
- National policies should promote efficiency in the use of resources,
emphasizing waste prevention and the productive use of wastes.
There is increasing evidence that community-based approaches to waste
management can promote a more sustainable development. Grassroots
efforts can be more successful than top-down programs created by
bureaucrats or experts with little or no community participation. During
most of human history, the approach to waste management in many cultures
and civilizations was the recovery of materials. Only around the turn of
the twentieth century the emphasis shifted from recovery to disposal.
During the nineteenth century there were pioneering efforts in England
to minimize wastes as a way to improve industrial competitiveness.
- Rural-urban alliance for food-nutrient exchange
Soil degradation and decline in soil organic carbon and soil fertility
are widespread. The use of recycled organic products can help to counter
this and at the same time reduce accumulation of organics in the city.
The rural-urban alliance means that separated organic fraction from
garbage and their organic carbon and nutrients can be recycled into
agricultural products that are ultimately return to cities again.
However people who believe that cities are doomed to degradation and
diseases and that landfills are "mines" in the future, also believe that
the rural-urban alliance is just a trick by cities to 'dump trash' on
farmers. Claiming that the urbans are doing the rurals a favor is a new
twist on that same old story. Advocates for urban organic wastes need to
explicitely demonstrate the purity of their product, the balanced
nutrient value of their product, and the intermediate conditions of each
stage in the storage/processing of the so-called "fertilizer"
wastestream. International organic farming regulatory organizations
require this now.
- Alternatives to landfilling
There is a strong movement in many countries to reduce the volume of
wastes to be dumped. The increase of composting sites is an indication
that organic fraction of garbage can be converted into a useful and
commercial product with a higher value. For inert materials,
technologies are needed to use wastes as raw materials to produce new
products. Development of new materials from recycled materials will also
encourage sorting of solid wastes. "Zero Waste" movement also targets
industries and waste exchange. 40 % of landfilled wastes in
industrialised countries come from building materials and this suggests
that such wastes can be avoided by developing long-lasting materials and
dwellings to reduce wastes from need to rebuild. Advocates of
long-lasting materials and buildings say that any new waste recycling
projects is not going to increase the knowledgebase appreciably. Instead
funds for research and development should be diverted to redesigning
dwellings that can last longer and that w ill facilitate higher levels
of wastes-handling efficiencies. Conventional thinking will provide
small gains only.
Other alternatives and efforts indicate that
- Onsite treatment and utilisation will reduce need for transport.
- Waste minimization is a socially desirable goal.
- Subsidy on products generated from recycled materials will encourage socio-economic changes.
- centers with technologies that use collected waste materials are needed
- wastes that have severe risks and excessive problems in disposal should be identified and those which cannot be neutralized may need to be restricted at the point of creation or entry
- a database on wastes that are available will provide information to possible users of wastes.
- Consumer and human lifestyles
A change to less waste-generating with the use of less polluting
products and cultivating habits with broad and deep educations are
encouraged to understand the extent of the interdependent ecological
problems. Producer Take-Back Campaigns and "Customer service" marketing
strategy will also foster change in lifestyles. WASTE is not just
garbage and includes misprioritizing limited financing or limited
productivity so that unimportant things get done but important ones
NEVER get done. Why don't we tackle and sort those WASTES? The WASTE OF
AN ECOSYSTEM is petro-pollution which should have been obsolete and
displaced over two decades ago with non-pollution alternatives.
Source: Internet Conference and panel discussion on the theme "Urban Waste Management"