The first webinar in UN-Habitat’s new, monthly series was on Waste Wise Cities & Innovative Technologies as an introduction to the theme of World Habitat Day 2019 – “Frontier Technologies as an Innovative Tool to Transform Waste to Wealth” which was celebrated on October 7, 2019.
Every year, 62 million tonnes of garbage is produced in urban India, of which, 5.6 million tonnes in plastic waste and 7.9 million tonnes is hazardous waste. The waste collection is sub-optimal. While 43 million tonnes of solid waste is collected annually, only 22-28 percent is treated while approximately 31 million tonnes of waste is left untreated and dumped at landfill sites.
In this webinar, different opportunities for a common strategy to integrate approaches and learnings from central and state levels to local levels were discussed. The ideas target local level actions for waste management, underlining the importance of citizen engagement in urban management with urban local bodies. The following are some highlights from the discussion:
Waste segregation at source is important. This makes recycling much easier instead of sending waste to landfills. Better segregation at source can be accommodated by providing space in buildings for containers for waste sorting and informing people about how and why to sort their waste.
A solid waste tax can be levied through property tax, e.g. based on electricity bills, to cover the costs of solid waste management systems. Citizens who use equipment or methods that reduce waste or makes it easier recyclable can get monetary rebates.
In many cities, informal sector waste workers have taken care of a large part of the sorting and collection of waste without coordination, health insurance, minimum wages, etc. Organizing waste pickers has a huge potential to streamline these processes and making waste management more efficient while ensuring better work conditions for waste pickers. Instead of working in a parallel waste management industry, they can be included in the formal one to strengthen both.
Waste data and monitoring are important to assess the types and amount of waste produced in different areas, to better employ solutions and strategies targeting this. Further, monitoring waste is necessary to measure trends and to evaluate whether new initiatives have the desired effects.
Many technologies already exist. To make them useful where they are needed, it is necessary to catalogue them to promote the technologies that fit a certain need. Norms and standards for the technologies need to be established to enable people to make informed decisions.
An important point highlighted through the webinar is that waste is a complicated problem and that the nature of the issues is determined by the specific context. While technologies can contribute with new methods of solving some tasks, technology alone will never be a standalone solution – it will always have to be integrated into comprehensive strategies, and to be thought into policy frameworks and the infrastructural, cultural, and behavioural factors in place.
During the webinar, the attendees were asked three questions about waste management in their cities. They had very different opinions on whether their cities address waste management sufficiently – while about 47% answered ‘yes’ or ‘to some extent’, another 42% said that this was only the case to a small extent or not at all. About half of the attendees thought that their cities allocate sufficient funding for waste management. Most attendees (about 80%) thought that innovative technologies are, to a large extent, the right approach to addressing waste management issues in cities.
A video recording of the webinar is available here.
Mangesh Dighe is Environment Officer from Pune Municipal Corporation. He has been preparing the Environmental Status Report for Pune city from the past 10 years. He does the pollution monitoring for the city and coordinates between different departments within the municipal corporation and relates their projects towards sustainable development of the city. Currently working on SDG goals for Pune city. He is also the secretary to the Biodiversity Management Committee of Pune.
Rahul Datar is an independent sustainability consultant specializing in environmental safeguards and impact assessment. Since 2015, he has been the principal consultant and proprietor of Environment Matters. He has worked on the development, implementation, and auditing of environmental and social policy frameworks for infrastructure development for financing institutions/banks. Further, he has conducted numerous Initial Environmental Examinations, Environmental Impact Assessments, and Environmental Management Plans. He has much experience both from India and abroad.
Nele Kapp is an Associate Officer for Waste Management in the Urban Basic Services Branch of UN-Habitat. She is the focal person for UN-Habitat’s Waste Wise Cities Campaign. Before joining UN-Habitat, Nele has worked as a “consulting engineer” in Vienna, Austria, supporting the public and private sector on a variety of waste management topics. She studied Environmental Sciences and Economic Psychology at the Leuphana University, Lüneburg, Germany, for her Bachelor’s degree and went on to study Environmental and Bioresource Management at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Sciences, Vienna, Austria, specializing on solid waste management.
UN-Habitat India would like to thank all who attended the webinar and asked questions to the speakers. We hope to see you back for the upcoming webinars.