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Importance of the Waste Management Sector

A functioning, advanced, efficient waste management sector is highly relevant to the resolution of many environment, climate, resource and healthcare-related challenges and has positive economic and social impacts:

Enviroment an Climate

In many countries, regions and cities, waste is perceived as a nuisance because it is simply thrown away – in many places for want of adequate collection systems and disposal facilities. The visual blight alone makes for unattractive surroundings: Litter in streets and roads, sullied countryside, and rivers and seas heavily polluted with plastic are visible manifestations of the throwaway mindset. The hidden impacts are even greater: Leaching causes persistent contamination of soils, surface waters and groundwater, biodegradation releases methane and carbon dioxide that drive climate change, while open burning emits toxic gases that pollute the atmosphere and cause major harm to human health. Systematic, advanced waste management significantly cuts such emissions and other environmental and climate impacts. Countries at the early stages of adopting systematic waste management have extra scope for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Methane from landfills and black carbon (soot) from incomplete combustion are short-lived climate pollutants that contribute substantially to climate change. According to studies by the German Federal Environment Agency, developing countries can cut their total greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20 percent by adopting a modern approach to waste management.

Resource Conservation

Landfilling and open burning mean valuable resources and sources of energy are lost for ever. Resources extracted at high cost from the environment and converted into products in a chain of industrial processes are squandered as waste when they could be used as secondary resources to create more wealth and prosperity. In a circular economy, a large fraction of municipal, industrial, construction and commercial waste can be put to further use.

Health

Careless handling of sometimes hazardous waste poses huge risks for human health and the environment. Incinerating waste electrical and electronic equipment to extract metals, for example, produces dioxins; landfill leachate pollutes drinking water; and hazardous substances from waste make their way by direct and indirect routes into foodstuffs. In many countries, environment-friendly waste management therefore plays an active part in promoting healthcare. Food leftovers are a source of nutrition for rats, vermin, flies, mosquitos and other disease vectors. Waste that is not systematically collected obstructs rainwater and wastewater runoff, leading to flooding and pooled water that serves as a breeding ground for disease vectors in the direct vicinity of housing.