Disaster waste recovery

19 March 2008

Following any disaster, large quantities of solid waste arise, posing both a threat to public health and seriously hindering reconstruction efforts. Uncontrolled dumping of wastes can have a significant negative public health and environmental impact through leaching of contaminants into soils andgroundwater, increased vermin presence, negative odour and visual impacts. In addition, hazardous and healthcare wastes dumped openly are a source of potential harm, generating an increase in support needed, particularly critical during an emergency phase, and involve a greater amount of financial resources.

Nevertheless, these wastes can provide a valuable resource to the reconstruction works through recycling and reuse. In addition, appropriate disaster waste response can be used as a catalyst to promote sustainable waste management solutions.

There is a pressing need to provide timely solid waste management and environmental protection support to communities affected by emergencies, including natural disasters and follwing cessation of conflicts. There is also a need to establish a focal point for best practice, lessons learnt and key issues regarding disaster wastes, which will provide an open reference source for those responsible for the planning, design and implementation of disaster waste projects.

At present there is no international organisation with a remit to focus on disaster waste management.

The Need

Waste management expertise (people and knowledge) is required immediately following a disaster, all the way through to the development phase.

A wide range of skills and experience is required, from collection, transport, recycling, incineration and disposal of all waste types to training, preparedness planning, waste assessment and sustainable livelihoods.

To enable communities and local authorities to effectively design and implement disaster waste management projects, a range of training and awareness workshops are required. In addition, best practice guidelines should be developed and disseminated as support to implementing agencies.

Adequate and appropriate waste management equipment and machinery is often lacking in the disaster recovery phase. The selection and supply of such equipment is a pre–requisite to successful disaster waste management projects where reuse, recycling, safe handling and proper disposal of wastes are key issues.

Our response

Recognising the challenges facing communities dealing with disaster wastes, and appreciating the need to provide support, a group of qualified and highly skilled disaster waste management experts have established Disaster Waste Recovery (DWR). This is a legally founded, non–for–profit organisation registered in the UK with the aim of providing timely waste management support to communities affectedbydisasters.

The core group of DWR comprises six waste management experts, each with more than 15 years experience in disaster relief from a wide range of organisations including the UN, World Bank, national government agencies, international NGOs as well as private waste companies and environmental consultancies.

The aims of DWR are supported by the international humanitarian relief sector, within the Inter–Agency Standing Committee's (IASC) Cluster for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (representing the leading UN and Charity implementing agencies responsible for sanitation, hereunder waste) encouraging the establishment of DWR.

We are now becoming operational and need support in setting up the organisation so we can support communities, local authorities and other implementing agencies in disaster waste management.

Our next steps include:

• Establish an organisational presence that can enter into contracts, deploy experts, hold necessary insurances and implement projects.

• Develop an effective communications system with a website at www.disasterwaste.org, as well as raise awareness of our presence and support.

• Develop a focalpoint for the collation of best practice, lessons learnt and research on disaster waste in order to provide an open source for those requiring support.

• Develop anddeliver training programmes for those responsible for the design and implementation of disaster waste management projects.

How can you help?

You and your organisation can help us in developing Disaster Waste Recovery into a fully operational organisation. There are many ways of support, from direct donations to setting up payroll giving schemes or contribution–in–kind support in the way of office location and access to such services as legal counsel.

Those organisations that support us in these next steps will be recognised in all our work as having been instrumental in providing affected communities with robust and sound solid waste management support.

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