Mitigating Global Waste Challenges: Collaborative Solutions to Eliminate Open Burning

The open burning of waste is a widespread global practice with significant consequences. Over two billion individuals, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, endure the adverse effects of polluted air, ground, and water caused by the burning of solid waste.

Kisumu City, for instance, generates up to 252 tons of solid waste daily, primarily disposed of through open dumping and burning on streets and dumpsites, posing environmental threats and health hazards. Health implications include respiratory infections, immune disorders, reproductive abnormalities, and premature death.

According to Professor Sir Jim McDonald, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, there is a need for lasting change through local, community-focused approaches despite the reliance of many on open burning for their livelihoods. The project, led by an international consortium supported by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, aims to address this issue.

Practical Action, leveraging its expertise in community-led approaches to waste management, intends to contribute to the project’s success. Professor Desta Mebratu, Africa Project Lead for Engineering X, highlighted the dire situation in Africa, where open burning contributes to poor air quality responsible for 1.2 million deaths annually. The project seeks to phase out this practice and create socioeconomic opportunities by treating waste as a valuable commodity.

Funded by the UNEP’s Climate and Clean Air Coalition, with Practical Action as the implementing organization, the project aims to reduce the open burning of solid waste, provide practical solutions to governments, raise awareness, and improve waste management infrastructure.

A picture of a dumping site filled in litter source@ practical action

The projects will achieve the following:

Reduce the open burning of solid waste, which is a major contributor to global air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Provide practical solutions and knowledge to local and national governments, helping them plan and take action to reduce the open burning of waste and toxic emissions.

Raise awareness and increase action in regions like Latin America, Africa, and Asia where the impact of burning municipal solid waste is particularly acute.

Focus on equipping relevant bodies with tools and information to implement strategies that reduce toxic emissions and improve waste management infrastructure.

Lessons learned from city pilots and ongoing engagement with regional bodies will be used to fine-tune roadmaps for reducing open burning of waste and making them more feasible and sustainable at a regional level.

In conclusion, Lucy Stevens, Practical Action’s Head of Urban Services, emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach involving multiple levels of action to address the issue. The collaboration aims to develop and test practical solutions while advocating for improved guidance and increased financing to combat this critical issue effectively.

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