WasteAid UK’s Zoe Lenkiewicz says while many of us are busy in our day-to-day lives ensuring that solid waste is managed safely and sustainably in the UK, vast quantities of waste are being dumped indiscriminately around the world…
WasteAid will be making some exciting announcements over the coming months, all of which are the outcome of the last year’s groundwork with partners around the globe.
While many of us are busy in our day-to-day lives ensuring that solid waste is managed safely and sustainably in the UK, vast quantities of waste are being dumped indiscriminately around the world. We have seen the consequences of this on our screens, through Blue Planet II and reports of an increasing number of spoiled beauty spots, from Latin America to South East Asia.
As professional waste managers, we are in a strong position to do something about it. While marine conservation groups grapple with the challenge of shorelines covered in plastic, we have the skills to prevent it reaching waterways and the oceans in the first place.
I heard our job described in these terms: “If you walk into a flooded kitchen, you don’t start baling out the water until you’ve turned the tap off.” What we are working on is turning off that tap of plastic waste leaking into the environment.
As waste managers, we recognise that the plastic pollution problem is symptomatic of a lack of waste management – it’s not just plastic that’s a problem. All over the world, people’s waste is fairly similar. It contains food waste and other organics, packaging materials (paper, card, plastic, metal and glass), and hazardous items like waste electronics and batteries.
Source separation is the mantra of sustainable waste management, and that mantra stands wherever we are. When these waste materials are mixed together they offer no real value; no obvious opportunity. Rather, what we see is a pollution problem. Managed individually however, these material streams can (nearly) all be managed locally, to the benefit of the community that is currently blighted by them.
The toolkit has been put to use in small islands, megacities, and all manner of places in between. It encourages people to look at waste as an opportunity rather than a problem, and provides enough information for people to set up small recycling enterprises: creating jobs, keeping their neighbourhoods clean, and stopping plastic waste reaching the oceans.
This principle formed the basis of the CIWM-funded WasteAid Toolkit to community-led waste management for lower- and middle-income countries. Published in October 2017, the toolkit has already been accessed by over 30,000 people in 193 countries. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the toolkit has provided the springboard for WasteAid to develop a number of new international partnerships.
The toolkit, Making Waste Work, has also been awarded third place in the International Solid Waste Association’s publication award. With accessibility at its core, the free-to-download online resource provides straightforward advice to communities on how they can manage waste affordably and without outside intervention.
From the correspondence WasteAid has received, the toolkit has been put to use in small islands, megacities, and all manner of places in between. It encourages people to look at waste as an opportunity rather than a problem, and provides enough information for people to set up small recycling enterprises: creating jobs, keeping their neighbourhoods clean, and stopping plastic waste reaching the oceans.
One person who responded to the toolkit is Chiku Chikoti in Blantyre, Malawi. Having already set up a small-scale composting programme, Chiku is keen to use the knowledge in the toolkit to deliver broader waste management services in his city. Chiku’s story is on the WasteAid website and offers a glimpse of the challenges of introducing a waste management service where there is none.
One major hurdle faced by Chiku, and many other would-be waste managers around the world, is the poor perception that people have of those who work with waste.
To respond to this, WasteAid is looking to develop an online learning service from the toolkit, and launched its first ever photo competition called “The Wonders of Waste”. Designed to improve people’s perceptions of waste management, the photo competition invited entries from around the world that show the beauty in waste, and the benefits of working with it.
The winning photos will be on display at the Waste Matters Theatre (14) at RWM in September, and a charity calendar is being compiled from the best shots and will be on sale.
Alongside generous sponsors Dsposal, WasteAid will be hosting the Waste Matters theatre and delivering a number of presentations, chairing panel debates and running a workshop for anyone interested in getting involved in tackling the global waste challenge.
While plastic pollution has become a hot topic, there is still a shortage of waste management professionals helping address the cause the problem. If you’d like to help make a positive impact, join the workshop at lunchtime of day 2 at RWM.
Finally, we need to say a big thank you to all of our friends, colleagues and supporters who have helped WasteAid continue to grow over the last year, including Hilary Silenga and Jonathan Straight who have joined our Board of Trustees.
As ever, CIWM and its members have been right behind the cause, and this year’s Walk for WasteAid saw over 100 people take on the London Bridges trek, raising over £10,000. Other fundraising events have also seen success, with a school play and village party raising £500 each, and a team of volunteers representing WasteAid at Deer Shed Festival and raising another £3,000.
It’s reassuring to see an increasing number of important players in the sector lend their support, including Biffa, Jonathan Straight, Dsposal, letsrecycle, Mitie, Resource Futures, Frith Resource Management, CD Enviro and OpenSkyData, and WasteAid is continuing to work on gaining the support of the industry at large. If you or your company would like to get behind tackling one of the most pressing challenges of the day, please get in touch.