The increasing volume and complexity of waste associated with the modern economy is posing a serious risk to ecosystems and human health. Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tonnes of solid waste is collected worldwide and decay of the organic proportion of solid waste is contributing about 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tons of solid waste are collected worldwide. Of all the waste streams, waste from electrical and electronic equipment containing new and complex hazardous substances presents the fastest-growing challenge in both developed and developing countries.
Poor waste management - ranging from non-existing collection systems to ineffective disposal -causes air pollution, water and soil contamination. Open and unsanitary landfills contribute to contamination of drinking water and can cause infection and transmit diseases. The dispersal of debris pollutes ecosystems and dangerous substances from electronic waste or industrial garbage puts a strain on the health of urban dwellers and the environment.
The solution, in the first place, is the minimisation of waste. Where waste cannot be avoided, recovery of materials and energy from waste as well as remanufacturing and recycling waste into usable products should be the second option. Recycling leads to substantial resource savings. For example, for every tonne of paper recycled, 17 trees and 50 per cent of water can be saved. Moreover, recycling creates jobs: the sector employs 12 million people in Brazil, China and United States alone.
The UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) in Japan supports the implementation of integrated solid waste management systems. Its work also focuses on the proper treatment of special wastes (electronics, agricultural biomass, plastics) in developing countries. IETC aims to optimize the management of solid waste by involving all stakeholders in the process through pilot projects at local level.