Application of integrated waste management to developing economies

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Courtesy of ORBIT e.V.

Integrated Waste Management (IWM), is a concept which is often quoted and politically used, but seldom defined. IWM integrates waste streams, collection and treatment methods, environmental benefit, economic optimization and social acceptability into a practical and sustainable system. This is achieved by combining a range of treatment options including reuse, recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion, energy recovery and landfilling (Figure 1). The key point is not how many waste management options are used, nor whether they all apply at the same time, but that they are part of a single approach.

IWM supersedes the commonly referred to waste hierarchy of re-use, materials recycling, composting, energy recovery, thermal treatment, landfilling. The hierarchy has little scientific or technical basis and only provides a simplistic framework to aid in the selection of different treatment options. No measure of the effectiveness of potential solutions for specific areas can be drawn from the hierarchy, either economically or environmentally.

The level of integration implemented in any IWM system will be dependent upon the prevailing local conditions. A system in one municipality which incorporates recycling, incineration with energy recovery and landfill may be quite unlike another municipality’s system which includes recycling, composting and landfill. This is not important as long as one retains the single overriding objective of the IWM principle: to find the most appropriate economic and environmental means available to divert an optimum amount of waste from landfill at any point in time presently and in the future.

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