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Integrated Sustainable Solid Waste Management in Asia

Final Report Summary - ISSOWAMA (Integrated sustainable solid waste management in Asia)

The challenges of solid waste management (SWM) are far from being solved. On the contrary, in countries with limited resources and rapid urban or industrial growth, the problems have intensified at great speed. The general inadequate, when existing, methods of collection and disposal of solid waste in most Asian cities are causing important environmental and social harms, like spreading human diseases, environmental pollution in general and ground and water pollution in particular. In order to raise awareness, promote an adequate waste collection and treatment system and the economic growth of this activity sector in a technological efficient and sustainable way, new waste management systems must be established which also take into account the informal sector. This integrated approach should comprise technical, environmental legal, socioeconomic and financial aspects, involving the key actors at different levels to ensure an effective implementation.

Therefore, Asian and European solid waste experts joined forces to identify and overcome hurdles and practical difficulties. A group of partners from Europe and Asia, interlinking with other local organisations, set up the Seventh Framework Programme ISSOWAMA network and examined SWM issues in eight Asian countries to develop a performance assessment system for integrated management scenarios, which consisted of a set of qualitative sustainability criteria along with quantitative impact indicators enabling assessment of waste management strategies. The central focus was the integration of the sustainability aspects into the system, such as environmental impacts, economic considerations and the social situation in the target region, integrating appropriate low cost and efficient technologies with community based management and their relevant governance, institutional frameworks and socioeconomic constraints, linking waste treatment with poverty reduction and improvement of welfare of the population. Research institutions, municipalities and other end users were targeted. These results were verified in different Asian cities, which was possible as the project consortium included countries in South Asia (Bangladesh, India), the Greater Mekong sub-region (Cambodia, Thailand, China and Vietnam) and southeastern Asia (Indonesia and Philippines).

It also aimed at bringing together experts and stakeholders in the field of SWM in Asian developing countries and Europe. The project promoted international cooperation between research organisations, universities and social and governmental stakeholders in a European and Asian context. An in-depth understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the specific local context were fundamental when developing a robust and sustainable solution. This not only greatly enhanced mutual learning among practitioners, but also replication and improvements in practice. Analysis of reasons for success or failure of waste management activities was the first step in this learning process. With this aim, a SWM expert and research coordination platform and an expertise network were established in order to coordinate, assess and guide suitable research and strategic activities with the aim of identifying aspects like cost effective treatment and sorting technologies, environmental impacts, gaps in technical knowledge and socioeconomic and policy barriers to further execution. The network also proposed directions for future research and local implementation.

The main conclusions about the status of waste management in general and integrated solid waste management (ISWM) in particular in Asian developing countries were the following:

1. the ISWM approach was suitable for the Asian developing countries. All the feedback received from discussions in the workshops pointed out that integrating technologies and stakeholders was the right way to go.
2. the main difficulties for this approach were engaging and coordinating all groups. Some informal groups were reluctant to participate in the dialogue leading to a new waste management strategy. Some government groups found it difficult to overcome the 'business as usual' scenario and be engaged in an open conversation with members of all groups. The strategy to follow to achieve everyone's participation had to be specific for each country.
3. public awareness was an issue in all countries. Practitioners and researchers on the sector agreed that the public needed education in order to understand the problems that arose from inadequate solid waste management, the correct way to deal with SWM and the opportunities it might represent, such as recycling. The main hurdles in this respect were the lack of access to educational measures for some groups and lack of funds to develop comprehensive strategies. In order to achieve success at the country level, deeper involvement of all levels of government was needed. Different government bodies had to make stronger efforts in applying the laws in force and to achieve transparency. Nevertheless, the impact and the achievements varied from one country to another.

ISSOWAMA was conceived as an European-Asian initiative expected to be a SWM expertise network to coordinate, assess and guide suitable further research and, moreover, to promote strategic activities with the aim of identifying aspects like cost effective treatment and sorting technologies, environmental impacts, gaps in technical knowledge and socioeconomic policy barriers for further execution.

The network was also intended to propose directions for future research on SWM and for local implementation. The main aim of this work was the creation of a European-Asian solid waste research and dissemination platform able to establish synergies amongst organisations, promoting therefore international cooperation in the field of SWM amongst researchers, social and governmental stakeholders, professionals of the sector, etc. This inclusive and holistic approach was vital to understand more deeply the specific surrounding conditions and potential consequences of the already existing and the new waste treatment technologies. Thus, ISSOWAMA was intended to be an important pathway towards Asian SWM sustainability.

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