By Dr. Smita Krishnan

Waste generation around the world is on the rise. With the fast growing population and urbanization in Africa and the Gulf region, waste generation is expected to rise. The unfavorable impact of poorly managed waste systems on the environment is diverse and contributes to biodiversity loss, serious health, safety, and environmental consequences and the accelerated destruction of our ecosystems on which we depend on for food, water, energy and livelihoods. Waste management should be segregated and handled in three main categories, namely solid wastes, chemical wastes, and electronic wastes.

Solid waste

Solid waste (SW) management requires integrated assessments and holistic approaches. The immense amount of solid waste generated from industrial, residential, and commercial activities poses a substantial planning challenge. As solid waste management is a grave aspect of environmental hygiene, it must be incorporated into environmental planning and policies. The main aim of solid waste management is decreasing and eradicating adverse impacts of waste materials on human health and the environment to support economic development and superior quality of life. The current systems for waste management, waste reduction and resource management are not adequate in a long term sustainability outlook. Strengthening the legal and legislative framework for waste management systems in necessary to shift towards efficient segregation of wastes, reducing waste before its generation, reuse or recycle, and/or sending it to the supply chain to offer social, economic and environmental gains.

Chemical Waste

Chemical wastes are substances that pose a health threat to humans or harm to the environment if not managed properly. Chemical wastes can be generated from many areas ranging from laboratories and industrial processes, to agriculture and pharmaceuticals, or from household wastes containing batteries or cleaning agents. Chemical wastes are classified as hazardous if they are flammable at low temperatures (< 60°C), corrosive, pH less than 2 or higher than 12.5, unstable or explosive or reacts violently with water, or if it toxic and harm the people or the ecosystem. Inadequately managed chemical waste can pollute water streams, impacting both aquatic ecosystems and human life. Managing chemical wastes requires approaches to develop safer chemical alternatives, minimize the use of hazardous chemicals, reuse and recycling or recoverable chemicals. Effective chemical waste management requires proper inventory management and control of chemicals. Some chemical wastes need to be treated and disposed of correctly, where on-site treatment of chemicals, or recovery and re-use are beneficial methods to manage chemical wastes.

Electronic Waste (e-Waste)

For the last few eras, the growing intricacy of waste streams, such as e-wastes, has been presenting new challenges to waste management systems. e-Waste is among the most precarious kinds of waste, as it comprises of heavy metals (lead, barium, and cadmium) and other toxic chemicals. If disposal protocols are not methodically managed, toxic components can contaminate the environment, threaten human health by allowing toxins seep into the ground and contaminate our soil and water systems. The key to accomplishment in e-waste management is to improve ecofriendly design of devices, collect e-waste the right way, recover and recycle materials using safe approaches, dispose of e-wastes by proper practices, ban the transfer of used electronic devices to poor or developing countries, and raise awareness of the impacts of e-waste. A single approach or method is inadequate to handling e-wastes, however, an integrated and holistic approach can complement each other to solve this issue.

ASCENT is aware of the growing challenges faced in waste management systems, and stands on the view that countries should be trained, and governance bodies strengthened to take a more integrated and holistic approach, combined with institutional, policy and legal frameworks to successfully achieving sustainable and integrated waste management in Africa and the Gulf region through compliance with international environmental laws. We should share experiences and knowledge in effective and efficient systems, to tailor solutions for each country’s challenges. When properly managed, waste is a resource and not a waste!