12.3.4 Waste and wastewater management sector
Better waste and wastewater management is an important sustainable development goal because it can lead directly to improved health, productivity of human resources, and better living conditions. It can also have direct economic benefits in terms of higher value of property due to improved living conditions. The 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development added a new goal on sanitation, calling for the reduction by 50% of the number of people living without access to safe sanitation by 2015.
Chapter 10 emphasizes that environmentally-responsible waste management to reduce GHG emissions at an appropriate level of technology can promote sustainable development. In many developing countries, uncontrolled open dumpsites, open burning of waste, and poor sewerage practices result in major public health hazards due to vermin, pathogens, safety concerns, air pollution, and contamination of water resources. Often, waste in rural areas is neither collected nor properly managed.
The challenge is to develop improved waste and wastewater management using low to medium-technology strategies that can provide significant public health benefits and GHG mitigation at affordable cost. Some of these strategies include small-scale wastewater management such as septic tanks and recycling of grey water, construction of medium-technology landfills with controlled waste placement and use of daily cover, composting of organic waste, and implementation of landfill bio covers to optimize microbial CH4 oxidation.
The major impediment in developing countries is the lack of capital. Another challenge is the lack of urban planning so that waste treatment and disposal activities are segregated from community life. A third challenge is often the lack of environmental regulations enforced within urban infrastructure. In many developing countries, waste recycling occurs through the scavenging activities of informal recycling networks. Sustainable development includes a higher standard for these recycling activities so that safety and health concerns are reduced via lower technology solutions that are effective, affordable, and sustainable.
In some cases, landfill gas might be used to provide heating fuel for a factory or commercial venture that can be an alternative source of local employment. Also, compost can be used for agriculture or horticulture applications, and closed re-vegetated landfills can become public parks or recreational areas.