Urban waste management is key to a circular future

The challenge
It is expected that close to 70 percent of the global population will be living in urban areas by 2050. Currently, solid waste landfills in and around cities are contributing to high levels of air pollution, which has a negative effect on the health of millions of people around the world. Additionally, as global population growth is increasing rapidly, the consumption of resources for material goods is skyrocketing. This creates an urgent need for us to rethink the way we dispose of waste in the cities.

The future
Urban waste represents a largely untapped source of recyclable materials for production, reusable goods as well as a source of both heat and electricity when properly utilised in efficient waste-to-energy plants. Along with the numerous environmental and health issues caused by our consumption and disposal patterns, this must be addressed to help shape the liveable and sustainable cities of tomorrow.

Explore associated sectors

The increasing urbanisation is challenging urban waste management across the globe with drastically rising levels of waste creation along with a shortage of space for landfills as cities expand. Urban waste management strategies should therefore seek to limit the amount of waste going to landfills by focusing on increasing recycling levels and reducing waste creation.

Waste collection must be planned intelligently to reduce pollution caused by waste trucks in the cities, and sorting of waste must be optimised to increase the quality of recycling. The latter also requires a joint effort from citizens and businesses. Consequently, decision makers must seek to create the right conditions for citizens to engage in sorting of household waste to increase the use of resources in waste, while encouraging recycling in industries by creating the right framework.

In many places, landfills are growing at rapid speeds polluting the surrounding soil and air. Waste incineration could provide an alternative to landfill, while also supplying heat and electricity to cities. Although recycling and reuse are seen as the best ways of treating waste, there is still a need for incineration.

Urban waste management entails the entire system of collecting, sorting, treating, utilising and ultimately disposing of waste, and when properly facilitated it can provide a source of energy and resources, while significantly reducing pollution. Therefore, public and private entities must work together to systematise the waste system to leverage its full potential for the benefit of citizens, the economy and the environment.

Connect with us: Gry Brostrøm, Senior Project Manager, gbr@stateofgreen.com