Achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 is among the agenda for countries across the globe.
This is important not just to manage the various economic, environmental and social impacts that threaten the ecology of our population but to also realise the benefits that come with achieving the goals.
From the perspective of solid waste management (SWM) and its plans and programs, there is an interrelationship with varying degrees of impact towards the 17 SDGs, whether the effect is directly or indirectly.1
For example, the goals of “sustainable cities and communities” and “good health and well-being” came in the lead of impact towards the goals; however, the goals of “quality education” and “peace, justice, and institutions” came in the tail of the goals that are affected by SWM plans and programs, according to the experts’ opinion.2
How can solid waste management contribute towards the sustainable development goals?
Waste and poverty rates
(SDG 1 – End Poverty in All its Forms Everywhere)
Did you know that millions of people in developing countries earn their living from recycling or reusing waste?
Many developing countries aim to integrate the informal sector in SWM systems into their formal waste management strategies – which will have an impact on reducing poverty rates within this sector.
For example, municipal administrations that collect the garbage can charge collection and recycling fees, making money in the process. This will also discourage institutions that generate a lot of waste, making them sustainable and more responsible to the environment.
Organic waste and food security
(SDG 2 – End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture)
Only 13.5% of the world’s waste is recycled and 5.5% turned into organic fertilizer.3
Recycling organic waste is a huge opportunity to produce large quantities of organic fertilizers that improve the quality of crops and raise the rates of agricultural productivity in countries. This supports the provision of safer and more nutritious food throughout the year and reduces the proportion of the world population suffering from hunger.
Solid waste management processes and ensuring a healthy life
(SDG 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all)
Garbage collectors are still exposed daily and on a continuous basis to the dangers of disease and infection as a result of improper practices of sorting and recycling these hazardous waste.
Proper management of medical waste inside health facilities – whether by incineration or sterilizing and shredding – can greatly reduce the transmission of infection and the transmission of pathogens.
Ensuring quality education for waste management communities
(SDG 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all)
According to a 2019 United Nations report, 617 million children and adolescents lack a minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics and 750 million adults still remain illiterate.3
We must address child labor and lack of funds for education within the community managing solid waste by providing technical and vocational education for them, especially in developing countries.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women in solid waste management
(SDG 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls)
The goal is to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere besides eliminating all forms of violence in the public and private spheres and other types of exploitation. According to the UNDP, one of the goals is to undertake reforms to provide women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws. One of the ways is to provide awareness of the importance of adopting safe practices on sorting solid waste, thus proper job opportunities based on solid waste recycling can be directed at women.
Additionally, provision of medical assistance to women who get infected and the inclusion of young adult girls in schools to allow them to practise recycling for a paid fee while ensuring their continuation in the educational system is one way to contribute to this goal.
Dumping solid waste and provide clean water
(SDG 6 – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all)
One-third of plastic waste ends up in the soil or freshwater. Plastic never degrades, but rather breaks into tiny particles less than 2.5 mm in size known as nano-plastics, which break down further into nanoparticles and that becomes part of the food chain.
Fresh drinking water gets contaminated with these plastic particles, causing various diseases of cancer origin and hormonal disorder4. Certainly, reducing pollution caused by hazardous wastes dumped in or near waterways increases the chances of obtaining higher quality water.
Energy recover from solid waste
(SDG 7 – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all)
Scientific development in managing solid waste has led to the billions of tonnes of waste we produce to be viewed as alternative sources of energy.
The concept of generating energy from waste is based on chemically treating solid waste to produce energy – waste is currently the third growing renewable energy source worldwide, after solar and wind – to more than half of the renewable energy used globally5.
This is why many countries have invested in research and development and plan on a large scale to recycle garbage and convert it into energy.
Solid waste management and decent work for all
(SDG 8 – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all)
The human resources of the informal sector in the SWM system and its accumulated experience in this field supports the promotion of economic growth by increasing the productivity rates of various SWM sectors.
These activities, industries, and small enterprises that are based on recycling operations of solid waste produce great decent job opportunities for the informal sector.
Recycling projects to stimulate industrialization and foster innovation
(SDG 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation)
Recycling materials create opportunities for various industries. It also stimulates innovation in industrial activities, leading to efficiency in usage of raw materials and elimination of wastage. All of that can support growth and innovation, and even reduce production costs especially in manufacturing processes.