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Mismanagement of Solid Waste Has an Environmental Cost and there are Concrete Opportunities for Reducing It

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Jun 25, 2014 / 0 Comments
 

Beirut, Rabat and Tunis:  New studies evaluate the cost of environmental degradation due to solid waste mismanagement

 

By *Hervé Lévite

 

Solid Waste Management is a Priority

 

“Solid waste management is a priority in the Mediterranean region”, so said the last joint Horizon 2020 report of the European Environment Agency and UNEP/MAP (May 2014).  Better managing solid waste is indeed essential for human wellbeing, control of health risks, limitation of Green House Gases and air pollution. It would also help solving the mounting problem of marine litter. According to data by SWEEP-NET, a regional network created by GIZ in 2009, which gathers information and helps national agencies promote best practices in solid waste management, the situation in the region has been deteriorating over the past 4 years with a 20% increase of non-collected waste and a 5.5 % increase of   unsoundly disposal of waste. Numerous reasons are behind these difficulties: high rate of urbanization and changes in the way of life leading to increased waste generation (around 2% per year),  low tax recovery level implying feeble investment efforts, and lastly political instability after the Arab spring making public decisions hesitant in   contracting private sector operators. 

 

This mismanagement of solid waste also translates in real cost for society. In the 90’s the World Bank was pioneer in supporting evaluations of the cost of environmental degradation (COED) and in 2010 a World Bank report  described the history of COED in Middle East and North Africa.

 

Focus on the Municipal Level   

 

During the third SWEEP-NET forum in Cairo in May 2013, a decision was taken to launch a new kind of studies: “COED due to mismanagement of solid waste at municipal level” for large capital cities of the region. Three cities were chosen for the pilot studies:  Beirut, Tunis and Rabat. While these cities, with their suburbs, are rather similar in size (around 2 million inhabitants and producing between 600000 and 1000 000 tons of waste), they substantively differ in terms of solid waste management. In Rabat, solid waste is under the responsibility of the municipality with private companies handling collection and landfilling. In Tunis municipality is in charge of collection while a public agency (ANGed) manages the treatment. In Beirut, the Council for Development and Reconstruction sub-contracts private operators to collect and treat the waste. 

 

The results of these groundbreaking studies were presented in workshop held in Marseille in April 2014, jointly organized by SWEEP-NET and the Center for Mediterranean Integration. The event gathered representatives of municipalities, national environmental agencies and experts from the region. Dr Fadi Doumani and Dr Sherif Arif, the two consultants in charge of the studies brought to the public four main messages:

  • great progresses have been made in the last decade especially in terms of cleanness of the cities
  • costs presented (called Cost Assessment of Solid Waste Degradation CASWD) are only orders of magnitude since data collection is still a challenge  and  health impacts are rarely calculated
  • costs of degradation are important but opportunity losses are even greater
  • actions in the sector  are cost effective.

 

Cost of Degradation and Opportunity Losses: Beirut, Rabat and Tunis

 

Source: SWEEP-NET, Cost of environmental degradation due to solid waste management practices at municipal level, 2014.

 

Great Beirut and Mount Lebanon

  • Cost Assessment of Solid Waste Degradation: The CASWD reached US$ 66.5 million in 2012 equivalent on average to 0.3% of GDP of the area. Collection coverage in Great Beirut and Mount Lebanon is effective and is near 100%. However Beirut has to bear the burden of ground water contamination, losses in land value for the numerous passive dumps as well as for its active landfills.
  • Cost Assessment of Opportunity Loss: Conversely, the opportunity loss from interventions that could improve the waste sector management amounts to US$ 74 million almost.
  • Possible Interventions: Recycling and composting (with a reduction of 60 % waste volume) could bring US$ 39.7 million of benefits and save landfill areas. Closing and rehabilitating high risk dumps are very viable options with a total benefit up to US$ 40.9 million.

Great Rabat

  • Cost Assessment of Solid Waste Degradation:  CASWD reached US$ 12.6 million in 2012. Indeed collection coverage was around 83 % of the solid waste volume. Non collected waste has a US$ 2.8 million cost of degradation. Cleaning the resulted passive dumps will cost US$ 5.8 million.
  • Cost Assessment of Opportunity Loss: Opportunity losses amounted to US$ 25.1 million, mainly consisting of US$ 20 million opportunity losses resulting from absence of subsidies, and another US$ 4.5 million resulting from lack of valorization of recycled and composed elements.
  • Possible Interventions: Collect could be brought up to 100% level with benefits up to US$ 5.8 million). Recycling and composting could be developed: recycling/composting 40 % of waste would necessitate US$ 16 million of investment but would bring annual benefits of US$ 4.5 million, thus making the operation very cost effective.

Great Tunis

  • Cost Assessment of Solid Waste Degradation: For the Great Tunis CASWD reaches US$ 17.3 million in 2012, equivalent on average to 0.16% of GDP.
  • Cost Assessment of Opportunity Losses: Opportunity losses amounted to US$ 23.1 million. Collection rate reached 90% however landfilling was limited to 65% of the volume.
  • Possible Interventions: Recycling and composting could be developed: recycling/composting 40 % of waste would necessitate US$ 22.7 million an investment cost of US$ 22.7 million of investment but would bring annual benefits of US$ 10.2 million, thus making the operation very cost effective. Collection rate could be increased with a total benefit up to US$ 2.9 million.

 

The consultation meeting in Marseille was very fruitful. Participants agreed that benchmarking COED was an efficient approach to foster efforts of municipalities and facilitate knowledge exchange. Similarly it was deemed useful to undertake periodic evaluations of the COED to measure progress. For instance, COED due to waste mismanagement in Morocco was reduced from 0.5 % of GDP figures in the 2000s to around 0.1 % in 2012.

 

Concrete Recommendations

 

Studies showed that it is cost effective to continue efforts of investment in the three cities. To find financial means, huge efforts of cost recovery are necessary (especially for Lebanon) but there is also an urgent need for clarifying responsibilities and working on legal tools and strategies. 

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