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Wednesday, 07 November 2012 10:19

ISWA's New President in an exclusive interview

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dn01 David Newman speaks about his vision for ISWA, the challenges of sustainable waste management worldwide, the opportunities for the waste industry, as well as the outcome of the very successful ISWA World Congress which took place in Florence this September.

ISWA has just completed a very successful ISWA Conference that took place in Florence few weeks ago. According the comments we received, for many people this was maybe the best ISWA Conference. You were one of the leading organizers, so we need your comments on that. Why this conference was different and what were the key-factors for success?

Firstly we started the organization in early 2009 and made sure we spoke to as many of ISWA’s National Members, Working Group Chairs and key members as possible. I guess I travelled to around 20 countries to talk to people, promote the event and understand what people wanted from the Congress. If the Congress was successful, as I think it was, this was because so many people contributed to its content. Also by starting three years early, I could lock in the sponsorships and divide their cost over three years; this meant I could also cover my annual costs before the Congress without needing bank loans- ie the sponsorship money came in as we needed it but also made it less stressful for sponsors by dividing their expenditure over three years. Having the support of local authorities helped a lot because it gave us access to such places as the Sala del 500 for the General Assembly, a truly memorable location.
Then of course I had competent people working on it, above all Carin van der Pyl and the Studio Ega ladies who are very professional.
Finally, ISWA made big efforts to promote the Congress and the Scientific and Technical Committee contributed with ideas, papers, peer reviewing, participation. In this sense we tried to raise the scientific level of the Congress by involving more academics (60% of papers) and by making a special WMR and peer reviewing the proceedings. Professor Jens Aage Hanssen did a great job on this and I hope we continue the experiment in 2013. 
The lesson is that control over the content of the Congress is vital to make it appealing to a wide audience. For example, the Ibero American session attracted around 160 people from Latin America, above all Brazil. A special session on the Italian financial crisis and waste management attracted 100 people; the textiles recycling session was overflowing with participants- arguments out of ISWA’s core activities which found strong interest.
In your lecture during the opening session you mentioned that almost 52% of the earth’s population has not even the most elementary waste management services. What should be an appropriate global response to that problem, especially taking into account that as it was announced the percentage of the Official Development Assistance for waste management is less that 0.5% worldwide?  
As I said that day, we need a Marshall Plan for the global waste emergency. ISWA’s role is to create the alliances that generate the consensus around the need to bring financial resources to waste and in this we are already succeeding. The Rio+20 declaration said exactly this, we need to finance waste and UNEP should play a lead role- UNEP is already ISWA’s partner in several ongoing projects and this relationship will grow.
The partnerships being developed with the World Bank, IPLA, UNEP, LED, and others, should all push in the same direction- getting funding to developing countries. The World Bank recently announced US$100 million loan for waste management projects in Morocco over the 2016-17 period. It’s a first step in the right direction.

Which are the challenges and opportunities for the  waste management industry? The increasing recycling rates and waste prevention trends are a kind of threat for the industry?  
dv02 We discharge to land 70% of all waste produced- yet raw materials become less abundant and more costly, quite a paradox. The challenge and opportunity is to reduce that figure dramatically. Three trends are evident 1) consolidation of the industry into ever larger players capable of facing the financial costs of investments in plants, services and resource management on a mega-city scale 2) the development of waste to energy as an alternative to landfills and dumping, with China leading the way having announced US$120 billion investments in plants by 2020. Other mega cities will inevitably follow 3) an increase in recycling, involving often the informal sector in developing countries; the economics are not always right and often recycling cannot compete with landfills- especially more modern technologies like anaerobic digestion, or even many composting facilities. But as urban areas grow and landfill space tightens and public opposition grows to open dumps on the cities’ borders, so the cost will inevitably increase and recycling become competitive on a more global scale.
I don’t believe we should feel threatened by waste prevention- moving that 70% that is landfilled today towards recycling and energy recovery is going to give the industry enough to do for the next decades. Further, waste production is growing worldwide as populations grow, urbanize and consume more. Any attempt to reduce the trend of growing waste production should be welcomed.

Dear President, your recent election, as the head of International Solid Waste Association, comes in a period that ISWA opens new roads in its global presence and international role. In the above framework what are your plans for ISWA for the years to come?

I think it is clear what our role is and where we need to be in 2020. Firstly, we need to consolidate the already high technical quality of ISWA, moving away from a volunteer towards a professional approach; this ensures that we maintain the lead as the only global reference point for waste. Secondly, we need to ensure our global outreach by increasing membership of nations above all among developing countries where the waste emergency is most urgent; third, we need to be present in the international fora to push for greater respect and understanding of the huge benefits our industry brings to the environment, the economy and society- health, resources, urban decor etc. These benefits are largely ignored until waste management fails, as the Naples case demonstrated so forcefully. This means a greater presence in international meetings and partnerships and resources need to be found to allow this. Finally, ISWA is working to become a reference point for government authorities when they need independent advice – I am thinking about how we can help orient government thinking and create programs for Climate Change mitigation as just one example. Or provide capacity building on hazardous or healthcare waste on which we have decades of experience. There’s lots of work to do!

Read 7905 times Last modified on Wednesday, 04 September 2013 16:48
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