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Tuesday, 27 August 2013 11:28

2nd International Conference on Waste in Angola: Antonis Mavropoulos' Interview

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Antonis Mavropoulos' exclusive interview on conference's webpage


The 2nd International AFRICA Sustainable Waste Management Conference will be held in Luanda, from 22 to 25 April 2013.  The event is organized by the Association of Portuguese Sanitary and Environmental Engineering (APESB) together with the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and the Association of Ecologists and Environmentalists of Angola (AEEA) with the high sponsorship of the Government of Angola and the support of the Environment Minister of Angola.

Can you make a short introduction of yourself and your company/entity ?

I am something between a consultant and a researcher, I am trying to walk on the red thin line between applied research and practical solutions. During the last five years I have focused on the systemic aspects of waste management and recycling, especially on the emerging megacities and metropolises in developing countries. I have worked in more than 15 countries and travelled for lectures and workshops in almost 35, mostly in the developing world. Through those missions I have found that there is an urgent need to upgrade waste management in local, regional and global agendas but I also found that the way we do it right now is rather inefficient. My company D-Waste is exactly a child of my request for new ways to provide advanced know-how and scientific support to developing countries and we have found that one of the best ways to do it is through web and mobile applications.

What is the current situation of waste management worldwide ( % of recycling, landfilling of waste, incineration, others)?

Well, in October 2012 ISWA published the report "Globalization and waste management" where we found that around 70% of the municipal waste produced worldwide is driven to dumpsites and sanitary landfills, 11% is treated to thermal and Waste to Energy (WtE) facilities and the rest 19% is recycled or treated by Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT), including composting. In another report published by D-Waste with the title "Waste Management for Everyone" we estimated that more than 52% of the global population has no access even to the most elementary waste management services which is an organized collection system. It seems to me that despite the efforts made, on a global level we have something like an ocean of dumpsites with some islands of advanced waste management. We have put all what we know about waste management worldwide in two short videos available at D-waste Channel in Youtube (see; and;)

Are there any challenges in your country in order to fulfill approved legislation or to protect the environment and public health?
Well, my country is Greece and as we all know it faces some very crucial financial and political challenges. Those challenges are creating a very difficult landscape for advancing the current waste management system which is based mainly on sanitary landfills, although there are some MBT plants too. However, Greece has still to implement the EU regulations which involve certain targets for recycling and recovery in different waste and material streams as well as the obligation for treatment before disposal for the whole amount of waste. I would say that there are two problems about it. First, during the crisis the recycling system seems to be disintegrated due to the lower response of municipalities and the lower budgets available. Second, it is not clear how the extra cost for 100% treatment will be covered form a society that has reached a level of 30% in unemployment. This is why I always say that when we put in place a regulation or a new piece of legislation we have to think the whole picture and take into account all the social, political, legal, technical, environmental and systemic aspects.

What is, in your opinion, the trend of waste management in EU?
EU moves fast to a gradual integration of waste management systems with the resource management ones. There is a global goal for a recycling society and a lot of initiatives to promote source separation of materials which will result in more diversion of materials from the waste streams. What is important to remember is that we do need just more recyclables, we need more and of better quality. The more we get involved into recycling systems, the more we discover that the next challenge we have to face is how to improve the quality of the recyclables in order to open new ways for their massive utilization.

Plastic bags and films are a very huge worldwide environmental problem. What do you think about it and how to solve the problem?
Within ISWA's Task Force on Globalization and Waste Management, we have released a recent report on global recycling markets that focuses on plastics. The report which is written by Costas Velis from Leeds University describes the challenges involved in plastic recycling and the market problems involved and it is a good starting point for everyone in order to understand that there is a global system that has substantial leakages of plastics. I guess the most symbolic one is the garbage patches in the oceans which already contain more than 10 million tones of plastics. I guess we need to act on two levels. Firstly, we need to prevent plastic waste production as much as possible and that involves a whole variety of measures regarding consumption and production of plastics. Secondly, we need to think out of the box on how to resolve the problem of the garbage patches, there already some initiatives about it but still nothing concrete. Last but not least, it is important to understand that we need to consider the whole system that results in plastic leakages and not just the waste management systems.

What could be the contribution of an International Conference on Waste in Angola for the development of the waste sector in the country and in other African countries?
For me, successful means a conference that is interactive, fruitful, scientifically interesting and with a lot of networking. If we manage to have such a conference I believe that it will impact the waste sector in Africa, because Angola is, for many reasons, a very visible country, acting like a beacon for other African countries too. As for Angola itself, I guess that with such a growing trend, the country will benefit from experiences, practices and methodologies that will allow the government to implement waste management plans and infrastructure based on the international state of the art thinking. We all know that waste management is based on local actions inspired by global principles and local cultures, so this is the mix I am expecting from the conference.

Are you coming to Luanda and what are your expectations from the Congress ?
For sure I will be to Luanda and I hope through the Scientific Committee of the conference and my presence I will make my contribution for a successful conference.

Read 6823 times Last modified on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 15:19
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