Solid Waste Management

solid waste management

Photo: World Bank

Increasing population levels, booming economy, rapid urbanization and the rise in community living standards have greatly accelerated the municipal solid waste generation rate (Minghua et al., 2009). Managing solid waste has been one of the biggest challenges in urban areas; from big cities to small towns to villages, management of solid waste poses a difficult problem. It is however strange that it receives little attention when compared to other major urban challenges. With the significant increase in solid waste management in urban cities, solid waste management is one of the main issues that need to be tackled immediately.

With the increase in population and economic development, solid waste management has become a major environmental issue. Ten years ago there were 2.9 billion urban residents who generated about 0.64 kg of MSW per person per day (0.68 billion tonnes per year).The report I’m considering in this article estimates that today these amounts have increased to about 3 billion residents generating 1.2 kg per person per day (1.3 billion tonnes per year). By 2025 this will likely increase to 4.3 billion urban residents generating about 1.42 kg/capita/day of municipal solid waste (2.2 billion tonnes per year).[1]With such a high increase in the quantity of waste produced, solid waste management requires immediate attention. The impacts of solid waste are quiet severe. Solid waste if not properly managed is a large source of methane and has heath, environment and aesthetics impacts. The collection and disposal of waste constitute an external cost to the society. Such external costs are in the form of pollution, impact on health, environmental degradation, safety etc.

“What is surprising, however, is that when you add the figures up we’re looking at a relatively silent problem that is growing daily. The challenges surrounding municipal solid waste are going to be enormous, on a scale of, if not greater than, the challenges we are currently experiencing with climate change” said Dan Hoornweg, Lead Urban Specialist in the Finance, Economics, and Urban Development Department of the World Bank. Therefore waste management is a critical issue which needs to be addressed immediately and more effort is required to reduce waste and effectively manage it.

With the increase in usage of technology ‘electronic waste constitutes a major source of new and complex hazardous garbage to the environment and human health and presents a growing challenge to both developed and developing countries’ (UNEP and UNU, 2009).80 to 85% of electronic waste are discarded into landfills which can release toxic gases into the air. With about 20 to 50 million metric tons on e-waste being disposed around the world every year the amount of damage it causes to the environment is inconceivable. There are concerns over medical consequences from landfill sites and older incinerators, including cancer, mortality, birth defects and low birth weight (WHO, 2007). Ozone-depleting substances released from discarded electronic appliances and building materials (e.g. foams), as well as industrial waste practices, contribute to ozone-layer depletion (UNEP, 2011).

The Problems due to which waste management is not a priority is because of some issues which are socially and politically more urgent in nature, take precedence and leave little budget for waste issues. Thus, in many cities around the world, effective, Functioning policy measures have been elusive and the resources invested in the sector inadequate (Konteh, 2009). It is indeed an urgent requirement to make waste management a national priority. If waste management programs are effectively administered, with the required set of skills knowledge and the capacity to implement them, garbage can be turned to “gold”. When informed decisions about waste management are made and applied to the circumstances that prevail, waste can even provide economic value.[2]

Written by: Spurthy Akshar

[1] Hoornweg, Daniel; Bhada-Tata, Perinaz. 2012. What a waste : a global review of solid waste management. Urban development series ; knowledge papers no. 15. Washington, DC: World Bank.


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