What a waste! …… in a changing climate.


A very good article from Dan Hoornweg on the What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management report that released two weeks ago from the World Bank. Very briefly, the report examines and summarises the increasingly difficult and complex problem of waste.

“Our cities generate enormous amounts of waste, and they’re just getting started – volumes will likely to increase beyond 2100, and we should plan for about a peak volume, four times what we have today. In today’s dollars, annual waste management costs will eventually exceed $1 trillion, and this cost is almost entirely borne by cities (this amount, for example, eclipses any sort of financial contributions to deal with climate change now being discussed within UNFCCC negotiations). Clearly we have a problem. But why is this particularly relevant to the climate change community?

 Solid waste has several obvious links to climate change. On the mitigation front, municipal solid waste is particularly important, as it’s the one of largest sources of methane emissions. Methane is a powerful GHG as its impact is much more pronounced in the short term than carbon. On the adaptation front, especially in low-income cities, which are most threatened by a changing climate, uncollected solid waste significantly increases local flooding by clogging drains.

…..

With the challenges we now face with climate change and solid waste, we are getting our first glimpse of the global system of cities. We have what some people call a ‘wicked problem’, which basically means that if you solve one part, you’re likely to have another problem pop up somewhere else. For example, when landfills are hard to develop, cities might choose incineration. Air pollution, like dioxins and CO2, follows. In waste management there is no `going away’. And what’s really scary is that we are only just half way through this urbanization process.

One way out of this `wicked problem’ is by greening our economies. This requires generating economic growth with a lot less waste and much less reliance on stuff going in. For example, today, the fastest way to reduce solid waste volumes is to have a recession – not an attractive option for local politicians and ministers of finance. We need to figure out how to reduce waste volumes while keeping ministers of finance, and the rest of us, happy. This is a very tall order but doable (see ‘Inclusive Green Growth’). We will not solve the climate change challenge without simultaneously solving other big problems like the waste management challenge.”

Source and more information: blogs.worldbank.org

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