Without instant action the waste crises will keep coming

Plastic waste today – medical waste tomorrow – ewaste soon after: ISWA warns continued global apathy to the issue of ‘waste’ will simply lead us from one crisis to another

The International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) is calling on governments and organisations to broaden their understanding of the global waste crisis following a recent focus on the issue of marine plastic debris. While the alarming amount of plastic in the oceans has justifiably received recent attention, it is just one type of waste seeping into the land, sea and air. With the growth in population far greater than the implementation of waste management systems to service them, the problem is likely to deteriorate not improve unless coordinated action is taken on a global level.

The ISWA is reminding governments and organisations that even today the waste generated by nearly three billion people is not collected into a formal waste management process. Approximately 40% of the world’s total waste is dumped in unregulated ‘open sites’, many of which on the banks of rivers or stretches of coastline. While plastic debris is a significant part of the slurry which seeps from these sites into waterways, the toxins, medical debris (including ‘sharps’ such as needles) and liquid residue, which permeates through electronic devices, are also present in substantial quantities.

Currents, of which there are five recognised major gyres, circulate this assortment of detritus around the world’s oceans.

However, there are also major implications for land resources and the atmosphere arising from the lack of waste-site management. The common practice of burning the waste releases dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere and the pollutant-filled ooze draining into the soil deplete the reserves of available fertile land and can easily find its way into the food chain.

David Newman, ISWA President, said: “An inexplicable apathy towards waste management has led to the current crisis but without immediate action we can expect more to follow. The impact of this inaction to human health, the environment and the global economy is well-documented – exposure to the open dumpsites alone has a greater detrimental impact on a population’s life expectancy than malaria.

“Through coordination, the ISWA believes these crises can be averted but the will and motivation from those capable of making change on the ground is essential. That means governments in developed economies must reach out to those who are receiving their waste and support them in establishing sustainable waste management systems, work which the ISWA will willingly provide support.”

ISWA is the world’s leading independent waste management association with members in more than 100 countries. ISWA’s declared mission is:

  • To Promote and Develop Sustainable and Professional Waste Management Worldwide

ISWA achieves its mission through:

  • Promoting resource efficiency through sustainable production and consumption

  • Support to developing and emerging economies

  • Advancement of waste management through education and training

  • Promoting appropriate and best available technologies and practices

  • Professionalism through its programme on professional qualifications

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