A global strategy for waste management

Marion Huber-Humer, Astrid Allesch (Universität fur Bodenkultur, Wien)

Waste management is a very interdisciplinary field of research. The ways how wastes are handled, collected, treated and disposed of have a decisive impact on our environment and public health. The scope of waste management and its strategies have been clearly widened and obviously changed during the past 20 to 30 years.

On a world-wide perspective, urbanisation and globalisation are "key-challenges" for future waste management, causing the change from regional to global waste management strategies. Today, more than 50 % of the world's population lives in cities, and the rate of urbanization is increasing quickly. By 2050, as many people will live in cities as the population of the whole world in the year 2000. Moreover, the amount of municipal solid waste is growing even faster than the rate of urbanization. Ten years ago, about 0.64 kg of MSW per person and day, but today these amounts have increased to 1.2 kg per person and day. Although these global rates are highly variable, they show the challenging task for future waste management. Especially in developing countries with hardly any financial resources for proper waste management, direct disposal in dumps and landfills will still progress.

Further, progressive pressure on finite resources will cause environmental degradation and fragility, while "lost resources" in waste dumps also posing a threat to the environment. To use wastes as secondary raw materials is undoubtedly an essential part in future waste management. Hence, the UN and European Union currently efforts to create a recycling society via Sustainable Development Goals and the Circular Economy Package.

Furthermore, globalisation has led to a nearly uncontrollable and untraceable exchange of resources and wastes around the world, facing the current situation that a number of wastes, even hazardous ones, may end up in uncontrolled dump sites or treatment facilities posing a great challenge for future global waste management. These issues will be presented and discussed during the lecture.