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Multilateral Network to promote research on sustainable solid waste Management for INCO target countries

Final Report Summary - WASTENET (Multilateral Network to promote research on sustainable solid waste Management for INCO target countries)

Solid waste management is often perplexed in low and middle income countries due to increasing waste quantities, unknown amount of hazardous waste and lack of infrastructure for proper management practices. Untreated waste has severe environmental and social impacts; nevertheless, management is usually a secondary priority, both in terms of policy making and public awareness, while the implementation of adapted strategies and methodologies is impeded by insufficient institutional, legal and political frameworks. However, application of sustainable waste management is essential to achieve the internationally set environmental millennium goals.

Therefore, the WASTENET project aimed to support international research and cooperation in the area of sustainable solid waste management, focusing on appropriate technologies, policy constraints and potentially successful projects for low and middle income countries. The project served as a communication platform for international knowledge exchange and contributed to the improvement of cooperation strategies, the elaboration of concepts towards sustainable development and the promotion of societal innovations. Finally, WASTENET aimed to promote the export of European knowledge and to reinforce scientific communication at an international level.

The project website was of major importance for the network establishment. It was developed as an interactive communication platform which included information restricted to the consortium members, along with public and semi-public sectors that targeted a wider audience. Its structure contained a communication forum, examples of best practices, photographs and country specific studies. Discussions were further motivated through the organisation of plenary meetings and regional workshops with numerous participants.

It was noted that environmental legislation was available in most Latin American (LA) countries; nevertheless specific regulations were often missing while the implementation and monitoring procedures could be improved. In addition, general public awareness was low in developing countries and academic degrees related to the environment were scarce. Big cities often had high collection rates unlike rural areas where waste collection and treatment was either fragmentary or absent. Moreover, recycling and separation of hazardous waste were usually insufficient and few incineration plants existed. Land-filling formed the most apparent disposal option, accompanied by few biowaste composting and recycling facilities. The involvement of people in informal recovery of recyclable material was a highly unsustainable practice, posing health and safety risks to the involved population.

Therefore, the project focused on development projects in rural areas, including the potential for decentralised biogas plants and trade with carbon dioxide certificates. In addition, priorities for the participating LA countries were identified. mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plants were not considered as a feasible option since they involved expensive technology with no actual resources' recovery. Specialists pinpointed the importance of international cooperation concepts, which intensified knowledge and expertise transfer. In addition, the creation of a centre for technical assistance regarding waste management and environmental issues was considered helpful.

The effectiveness of WASTENET network was improved by integrating stakeholders from different countries and agencies practising sustainable waste management. Apart from the regional workshops, activities included literature review, in order to identify LA research priorities. The demand for future projects was identified through a comparative analysis elaboration. It appeared that necessities in LA were similar to those in Asia and that in numerous cases these demands were already in practice in Europe, which had to address different research needs. Issues related to solid waste management, reduction and recycling were of primary importance, as well as the necessity to establish laws that increased the responsibility of manufacturers. It was also evident that social barriers, along with the economic, political and cultural background of the countries should be taken into account in all cases.

An attempt to identify the relationship between the technical development of solid waste management and the social, cultural and gender barriers was also performed. The elaboration of country specific studies allowed for an insight in programs aiming to increase public awareness and promote education. It occurred that the causes and solutions of barriers varied between different countries, depending upon local conditions, policies, economic and social issues.

Produced knowledge dissemination activities were based on the circulation of relevant documentation, the participation in scientific networks, international events and symposia and the preparation of articles and newsletters. The established network was highly successful; therefore, the involved parties aimed to continue the edition of newsletters and to investigate the potential for ongoing collaborations after WASTENET completion.

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