averda: cities need to reduce their waste streams
averda COO Jeroen Vincent spoke at the Arab Future Cities Summit
Waste management solutions provider averda has urged municipal leaders across the region to re-think their current waste streams, and begin circling materials back into the economy, instead of sending them to the landfill or incinerating them.
Speaking at the third annual Arab Future Cities Summit held this week in Doha, Jeroen Vincent, COO – GCC, averda, highlighted the need for cities to drastically reduce their waste streams.
According to him, this will require a drastic shift away from the current linear model of waste disposal, which is to make, use, and then dispose.
"Urban centres across the developing world will see a dramatic population increase over the coming years," said Vincent. "Municipal governments generally spend between 20-50% of their annual budget on solid waste management, according to research done by the World Bank last year. 60% of solid waste in any given city, for instance, is food, which is full of valuable nutrients for the region's soil. We need to rethink this model and build a smarter system in our cities."
Such a concept for waste management, which is called circular economy, has the potential to collectively save the global economy up to $1 trillion. In a circular economy, materials flows are into two types, biological materials and technical materials.
The biological materials are non-toxic, organic matter that can be decomposed and recycled as a fertiliser. Technical matter, such as products made with polymers, alloys and other man-made materials, are designed to be re-used and enjoy multiple lifecycles without being wasted.
"This concept is full of potential," Vincent said. "The long-term objective of a circular framework is to prevent waste, but reaching that goal will take a considerable and prolonged investment by all stakeholders involved. In the meantime, our tangible goals should be to reduce avoidable waste, and identify ways to use waste that benefits our economy."
According to Vincent, the first step for many cities in the region is to separate the volume of food waste that they collect. Next, it is essential for municipal governments to implement schemes to incentivise businesses to recycle their food waste, and turn it into fertiliser and renewable energy.
"There are profound benefits to incentivising stakeholders," Vincent explained. "Along with generating clean electricity and fuel commodities such as ethanol and methane, waste can also kick start new industries. By turning waste into fertilisers, we can encourage farming in a region where the soil lacks the nutrients and the ability to retain water. By producing organic fertiliser, we can avoid importing synthetic fertilisers, while reducing the cost of farming, and foster a new, sustainable industry in the Middle East."