RSK-IWS’s Nuno Lopes was interviewed by letsrecycle.com, the UK’s leading independent dedicated website for businesses, local authorities and community groups involved in recycling and waste management.

Nuno, in his wide-ranging interview, spoke about how a lack of forward planning inhibits cities from meeting their sustainable waste management goals.

The article referenced a UN report detailing the rapid expansion of global populations coalescing in cities around the planet, especially in Asia and South America. The report states that by 2050, almost 70% of the global population will reside in urban areas. That translates into cities needing the capability to deal with the vast amount of added waste, including infrastructure and equipment. However, with few plans in place, disposing of waste is a fundamental issue facing future city environments.

In the article, Nuno explains how a sustainable system must consider environmental, social and economic challenges, thereby balancing the increasing volume of waste with environmental health considerations. An obvious place to start is government. “Decision-makers have chosen to maintain a low-investment system,” says Nuno, but this strategy results in high operating costs, which prevent large infrastructure investments. And the situation will only worsen, as Nuno explains: “Waste generation is increasing, and it is expected to increase by 73% from 2020 levels by the year 2050. Addressing this growth is essential if cities are to be sustainable, and more attention is finally coming to the sector. With the current pressure to reduce emissions and energy consumption and to lower costs, the perspective on waste management planning is changing.”

Innovative solutions needed

Cities, according to Lopes, should regard waste management as a tool to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. Making collection more efficient reduces overall transport costs, air emissions, energy use, truck traffic and road wear and tear. Modern equipment with a large storage capacity capable of generating and transmitting information will help streamline the process. Also, innovative collection models should generate information and predict behaviours to anticipate events. Nuno’s example involves bins that alert the collection agency when they are reaching capacity or route planning that automatically adjusts to traffic flow. “Each city has its challenges, and there is no single solution that adapts or fits all urban environments,” says Nuno. Collection in a suburban area will differ from a city centre. The key, he says, bringing RSK-IWS’s services into the conversation, is integrating long-term strategies “that will enable us to overcome the future challenges of waste management in cities”. And RSK-IWS is at the forefront of devising those plans to help governments and local authorities meet future waste needs.