ISWA concluding remarks by Prof. Dr. Karl Vrancken

The ISWA2015 World Congress has shown that the waste management sector is a lively and enthousiastic group of people. New insights have been presented, we discussed about innovative technologies, better governance and the changing role of the sector. And we enjoyed ourselves. The Congress showed that great progress has been made in the past decades, that there are leading examples and established good practices. But we also learned that we face several important challenges, as population is growing and cities expand. 

The most pressing issues are:

- the collection of waste in low and middle income countries
- the closure of open dumping sites
- the need to step up from waste treatment to materials management

Regions in the Western world, such as Flanders and the City of Antwerp, reach collection rates of 100% and recycling rates above 70%. Still there is a continuing need around the world to strengthen waste collection shemes and the implementation of separate collection to allow better recycling, refurbishment and re-use. In many developing countries, collection rates are at 40-60%. We must take initiatives to bring this up to much higher levels. The lessons learned from the high income countries should be taken to the developing world and help them to leapfrog into a performant waste management system. With the projected growth of population, it can be expected that many cities in the developing countries will double their waste production in the coming years. The sector should not only invest in waste collection and waste management infrastructure, but also in prevention at source.

ISWA wants to give a priority to the clean-up of the existing open dump sites. This must be reflected in development support schemes of the higher-income countries.

Open waste sites in India, Indonesia and the Philippines are more detrimental to life expectancy than malaria. 64 million people’s lives, are affected by world’s 50 largest dumpsites (equal to population of France). The cost of cleaning up is high but much lower than the societal cost of doing nothing.

The world needs to move from waste management (i.e. cleaning up a problem) to materials management (i.e. supplying society with functional products and services).

In order to strengthen and support the development of the circular economy, ISWA and the waste management sector want to engage pro-actively with all actors along the value chain and set up a real teamwork of actors. We need to reach out to the mining  and processing sectors and to the large companies that produce consumer goods, in order to spread our knowledge and strengthen our role in the prevention of waste.

Material loops can only be improved and closed, if there is more attention for the quality of products, components and materials. Secondary materials must be able to live up to quality standards that apply for primary materials. This must be reflected in the design, disassembly, collection, separation and processing of waste materials.

From many presentations, we have learned that technologies are available to support the further implementation of sustainable waste and materials management services. They can and should be applied to manage food waste, marine litter, construction and demolition waste, electronics,  hazardous waste, and to produce energy, heat or chemicals. But it has also been demonstrated that small-scale and local initiatives form the basis for systemic change.

It must be stressed more openly and actively, that the effects and impacts of waste management are strongly linked with public health, climate change and sustainable development. Waste management should not operate in a silo. We must more clearly express these linkages, in order to get waste management higher on the political agenda. The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) will play an important role in this process. Their next meeting in Nairobi will bring together ministers from around the world to raise political awareness. Preparations are also ongoing to make a UN resolution about the importance of waste management. 

We have the Global Waste Management Outlook lying on our desks now. The exercise has shown that data collection is at the basis of targeted action. We need to develop similar analyses at regional level. ISWA wants to support this process. But we also realise that there is a need for more transparency in the sector to collect good data.

I expect all of you and ISWA to bring this GWMO report and the conclusions of this conference to politicians, entrepreneurs, students and the wider public. The Global Waste Management Outlook provides a list of concrete actions, it shows us clearly where to go.

Let us make the most of our resources and waste.

Prof. Dr. Karl Vrancken

Scientific Chairman of the ISWA2015 World Congress

Go back