The importance of Green House Gases (GHG) in decision making for SWM systems becomes an elementary part of every discussion about the future waste management. Below you will find some questions to consider and some thoughts to share about the issue.
I do believe that half of the effort we need is to create an appropriate framework for the assessment of the link between GHGs and SWM. Although there are a lot of very useful related documents, I still believe that the necessary political framework for this discussion is loose and not well defined. For the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA, www.iswa.org ) there is an opportunity to upgrade its profile being a part of the required global drivers for such a discussion. In fact, the global impacts of SWM (as highlighted by GHGs) are an obvious documentation of the need for global action and the necessity of a global know-how provider and driver to more sustainable SWM, exactly what ISWA’s mission is! So allow me to write some thoughts trying to contribute to an initial framing.
Globalization of environmental impacts: GHGs are the most obvious way to highlight that local SWM has a global environmental footprint. There are also a lot of other indications to highlight (in scientific terms) a similar relation between local actions and global effects, but under the current conditions and the global political agenda about Climate Change, the link between SWM and GHGs is the most important tool to create a universal understanding for how our local decisions in SWM contribute to global phenomena.
GHGs and the sense of time: human beings tend to underestimate or even ignore the importance of events that are out of their natural time scale. GHGs impacts are also a very good example in order to prove how previous and current SWM practices create Long Term results which substantially deteriorate the life of future generations.
GHG and developing countries: obviously the GHG effects and their management play a very crucial role for the formulation of international relations and diplomacy efforts. They also have a very clear political and economical content, which is very sensitive and difficult to be avoided. But we have to avoid a direct recommendation of what has to be done in terms of technologies and systems in place. In contrast, we have to point what should be the potential next steps (usually more than one) for more sustainability and less GHG effects in every different level of SWM. We need something like “How GHG effects influence SWM” or similar. The focus should be to criteria and conceptual relations between different practices and technologies and not to a direct indication to what has to be done.
GHG effects should be considered as a risk or as an opportunity for SWM development? (I suggest the second)
What are the impacts to GHGs from the different SWM practices? What are the main risks for SWM systems? Are there any opportunities and where?
What are the impacts to SWM practices and the industry from the accumulation of GHGs? How Climate Change is expected to affect SWM?
What are the key – actions that should be elaborated from different SWM systems and practices in order to minimize the GHGs impacts?
Should we discuss about the economical impacts as well?
Can we categorize Short and Long Term actions?
Can we categorize actions according their effects (e.g. Small, Medium, and High)?