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waste management

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Waste Management

In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development formulated the concept of
„sustainable development‟ (United Nation 1987); this notion, recalling „needs‟ and „limitations‟ for present and future generations, implied in all decision-making a combination of economic, social and environmental concerns (Sales et al. 2006). In 1992 the Rio Conference confirming this idea
(United Nation 1992) heralded the concept of social compatibility as a third dimension of sustainability (Joos et al. 1999) and by its action plan, the Agenda 21, prompted the instruments for the sustainability: resource conservation, pollution control, waste minimization (Young et al. 2010).
Therefore, on the base of these assumptions, a „sustainable society‟ implies a social governance between the finite resource system of Earth and the development externalities; in this contest the management policies of both natural and discarded resources play a central role (Kollikkathara et al.
„Waste management‟ is an issue than must be analysed under an holistic perspective; it concerns both developed and developing countries (Brunner And Fellner 2007), it deals with variegate types of wastes, in terms of their producers and in term of the potential threat for the human health and the environment (Misra And Pandey 2005). Moreover, the situation is even more complicated if we look at the dissimilar technologies to process the wastes (Young et al. 2010) and at the formal and informal organizations involved to mange them (Nas And Jaffe 2004). These considerations and their correlations are crucial for assure the achievement of the waste management aims: (1) protect human beings and the environment; (2) conserve resources (Brunner And Fellner 2007: 234).

The environmental impacts
The environmental impacts, as consequences of waste management, are direct and indirect: the first are related to all the externalities that derive from the treatment options; the second are divided between the shocks associated with materials and energy used as inputs to supply the system, and the impacts caused by the favourable competition on the market of the materials and energy recovered in the waste management with other items environmental friendly (Soderman 2003).

We can consider incineration and landfill as two example of treatments; the choice between the two treatments is conditioned to several variables as landfill capacity (Misra And Pandey 2005) and state of the art in technology of the country (Brunner And Fellner 2007).
Incineration is a process that involves oxidative conversion of a solid to a gas; the main reason to justify the adoption of incineration as waste treatment is the reduction in weight (one-third) and in volume (45%) of the initial amount of waste, however this decrease is minimal if we calculate all the pollutants generated in the process. Incineration releases ashes, heavy metals (mercury, lead and cadmium), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and primary concern chemicals as dioxins, polychlorinated (biphenyls, napthalenes, benzenes) dangerous for the environment and human health because persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. In particular dioxins and heavy metal have been found in soil, agricultural products (vegetables, milk, eggs), in air (potential inhalation) and tissue of residents living near incinerators (Allsopp M. et al. 2001).
Disposal in landfill implies a choice, in relation of the dangerousness of the material managed, between numerous types of landfill more or less safety (common, approved, secured, open, control, closed landfill) (Misra And Pandey 2005); considering the case of a common landfill the main consequences of waste disposal are gas and leachate generation (El-Fadel et al. 1997).
In regard to Gas, although an initial and quickly aerobic decomposition of the organic materials, the dominant phase, the anaerobic (when carbon dioxide depleted the oxygen on the landfill), produces especially methane and carbon dioxide, around 90% of the total gas generated (Fig. 1: El-Fadel et al. 1997). This gas composition is highly inflammable and easily can move out from the landfill through soil, building and underground facilities. It also, in case of closure of the landfill and its replacement with a park, can migrate upward and escape into the atmosphere causing asphyxia in the plants. Moreover the methane contributes significantly to global warming because in comparison with carbon dioxide it has a relative effect 20-25 times greater, it is more effective at trapping radiation and persists longer (El-Fadel et al. 1997).
The Leachate, instead, is caused by percolation of water on the refuse mass, generally it is consequences of precipitation, irrigation or ground water intrusion (Fig. 2: El-Fadel et al. 1997): it can cause contamination of aquifers under the landfill (El-Fadel et al. 1997).

Contamination of the environment and human health impact may derive also, and with more devastating effects, from that activities that are out of the control of a waste management systems as illegal dumping or illegal traffic of waste. We can mention the world known tragic case of Chevron in Equator: „Texaco‟ an oil enterprise (now merged into Chevron), avoiding any environmental

impact assessment and tacking advantage of an undeveloped area, from the 1960s to early 1990s dumped around 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways, abandoned nearly 900 waste pits, burned poisonous gases with no controls, and spilled almost 17 million gallons of oil.
The damage is 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster (Business Wire 2009).
Looking instead at the illegal traffic of waste, we can consider the case of Italy: in 2002, in a police action, it has been revealed a national illegal network of hazardous waste traffic managed by criminal organizations. For instance they discovered that in Bari, Puglia (south), several farmers accepted under rewards of the local mafia (Sacra Corona Unita) to burry hazardous refuses of northern enterprises under their lands, and moreover in Milan, Lombardia, ammonium, zinc, aluminium from smelters of the south where founded under building sites (Legambiente 2003).

Waste treatment approaches in developed and developing countries
„Waste management‟ is a wide concept that includes on one side end-of-pipe solutions that can be passive disposal activities (incinerator, disposal in landfill, chemical fixation, degradation, encapsulation) (Misra And Pandey 2005) and pro-active approaches (recycling, composting, reusing) (Mosler et al. 2008) and on the other side front-head preventions, pro-active as well, based on the idea of reducing waste and restructuring production and distribution of goods (Ebreo et al.
1999). When we refer to „passive activities‟ we want to underline in contrast the required more effort and commitment of the individual in the „pro-active activities‟ (Cope 1995).
In 1989 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA 1989) established a general hierarchy between these approaches and revealed the high preference of the country for a pro-active prevention than end-of-pipe solution (reduction-recycling-incineration-landfill).

However this is a partial result; in fact we have to bear in mind that while in developed countries the direct impacts of wastes on human health and on the environment have been significantly reduced, and so the country can focus on expensive technologies, in developing countries the waste management system has to achieve the primary aim of protection of human health. Brunner and
Fellner (2007) compared the waste management realities of three cities Vienna (Austria) Damascus
(Syria) and Dhaka (Bangladesh) and they demonstrated that the different amount of money spent and the urban conditions of a city are crucial in the choice of the refuse treatment to adopt as first
(Fig. 3. And Table 1: Brunner and Fellner 2007). The production of waste in Vienna is about 540
Kg capita-1, the expenses nearly 106€ capita-1 year-1, equivalent to 0.40% of the GDP; of the total budget around 60% was required for collection, a 29% was spent for the treatments. Damascus and

Dhaka, despite with a lower production waste and higher number of inhabitants, they cannot afford a waste management system of this level because the average expend for waste treatment is only between 1 and 10 € capita-1 year-1.

Furthermore a uniform large-scale scheme for all the countries, developed and developing, is not admissible for other reasons; firstly it requires a high level of public participation that is not always achievable in the context of developing countries, secondly for instance modern collection trucks are not appropriate for narrow unpaved roads, while in this case seems better a collection by hand or with small trucks, and third the waste itself is different, in developing country it contains more organic matter and it is denser and moister (Nas And Jaffe 2004).
In developing country, moreover, it must be underlined the presence of an „informal waste management‟ that assist the „formal and official‟ (Nas And Jaffe 2004). These informal workers are call „scavengers‟ and use the waste as a resource to make profit. The scavengers come from a very low socio-economic status (in India are often Dalits, in Muslim countries are non-Muslim), they operate in groups or alone, they collect from dump different types of refuse (food, metal, coin, coal ash, plastic), thus they can recycle (e.g. mixing buffalo dung with coal dust they make gool, a fuel) or sell immediately the objects. The transaction can be directly made with the public (small scale enterprises that take advantage of the low cost material) or with middlemen where the material is sell by weight (Furedy C. 1984). This last patron-client relationship assures them a security of living but at the same time, because of the fixation of the price by the middleman, is expression of their vulnerability (Nas And Jaffe 2004).
Governments, depending on the country, are sometimes reluctant to promote projects involving scavengers, in the urban realities where the amount of waste produced exceed the municipality‟s capacity to process it, because of a lack of pre-collection sorting, however their contribution is essential. Moreover the informal workers are „labour intensive‟, while the formal are „labour saving‟ and „capital-intensive‟ (Nas And Jaffe 2004).
In the challenge of overlapping the problems related to informal waste management and in the attempt to coordinate its „potentiality‟ with the „functionality‟ of the formal management, Nas and
Jaffe (2004) individuated four possible interventions conditioned to the subject involved (public purchaser, middlemen, scavenger, international institution). The most successful is scheme at scavenger level: the example given is in the project carried out in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The scavengers organized themselves, with the help of „Street Pastoral‟ (Group from Roman Catholic
Church) in an association that has been included from the government in the new „sustainable

development‟ waste management model. The scavengers, as preferential agents in the collection, took advantage of operational support, better condition of living, education opportunities, while the city was cleaner.

This situation of developing countries, between informal and formal waste management, is an expression of the dynamic answer of the society to an alteration of the environment around; the lack of natural resources in terms of food, fresh water makes valuable the discard resources and create a business for their survival. Smith and Wandel (2006) introduced the concept of „adaptation‟ in relation to the climate change and their considerations are useful for understand the phenomenon.
The „capacity of adaptation‟ is the capacity of a system to cope and recover itself from a situation of vulnerability as reflection of exposure and sensitivity of the system to hazardous conditions; it is crucial because it may predict the livelihood of a system.

Public participation as waste management solution
Thus, local waste management administrators in waste management programs should contribute to this adaptation process of the community by taking advantage, after observation, of the differences and variables of each issue and of the specific characteristics of the community itself and of the environment from which it emerged. As a general recommendation we strongly believe that they should support the participation of the members of the public in the waste management program.

Firstly we highlight the role of environmentalists and their knowledge in the decision-making; environmentalists can be defined as stakeholders of local governments in the sense that they have a stake in the management decisions and a power to manipulate them, they also play an influential role in raising and maintaining public concern (West et al. 1992).
The research has been carried out by mailed questionnaires to 468 members of GRCDA (Florida‟s
Government Refuse Collection and Disposal Association, the largest association for waste management professionals composed principally from local government officials in solid waste field) and to 219 of FAS (Florida Audubon Society, one of the largest environmental interest groups with 600,000 members).
The first part was to rate the desirability of the disposal waste alternatives divided between preventive (Source reduction and Recycling) and control (Waste-to energy facilities and Lanfills) options (Table 2. West et al. 1992); both preferred „preventives‟, environmentalists showed their favourable to WTE in contrast with the expectative.

Then they valuate the perception of environmentalists and administrators on solid waste management issues (Table 3. West et al. 1992) and resulted a significant confidence of the second for landfills, the results also confirmed a major tendency of environmentalists for recycling. Both believe in the need of educational campaigns to increase the participation of the public, while only the environmentalists support economic incentives instead of penalties. Environmentalists perceive the public ready to engage in recycling and they are extensively sceptic on the actual recycling programs. Thus, the researchers examined the „Reasons for recycling‟ and both groups evidenced as desire to
„save natural resources‟, „reduce solid waste flow‟ and „reduce amount of solid waste to landfill‟, moreover mutually considered a valid reason „cost avoidance‟.
Regarding to the „State‟s role‟ the administrators agreed to extent the support to solid waste management to federal system, the environmentalists resulted strongly critical.
Considering the relation between „private and public sector‟ both disagreed that the latter is more competent however the environmentalists were more likely to consider the advantages of private sector involvement in waste management.
These results confirm what anticipated; administrators should be interested to their stakeholders‟ opinions to avoid conflicts during the management, they should also take advantage of environmentalists‟ technical expertises and they should work to make them as allies, for instance to increase the budget of waste management programs.

An analogue example of external participation in the decision-making comes from the research of
Joos et al. (1999): by the adoption of „Delphi interacting questioning‟ the researchers involved public authorities and business representatives to exchange their information, knowledge and opinions in regard of the current waste management situation in Switzerland. Moreover this method, by the technique of an active confront between the participants and by the dynamic formulation of questionnaire on the base of the anonymous result of the precent phase, supplies to the researchers a prognostic overview of visions and scenarios of the future waste management
(Joos et al. 1999: 419).

The second study that we propose has been performed in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, by mailed questionnaire with two open questions. It is an important example of participation of the community to the waste management program because it promotes the idea of shifting the problem at its source, and also consider behaviours with different social involvement (Mosler et al. 2008).


In Santiago the rate of recycling is high, around 60%, the reason is double; the government propaganda and the action of CDR (Comite de la Defensa de la Revolution) a political neighbourhood organization, that arranges irregular collection for recycling and incentives and control people.
The waste disposal behaviours, object of the study, were „recycling‟, „composting‟ and „reuse‟ and their determinants have been described by three main factors: Attitude, Perceived difficulty,
Perceived Reputation (Fig. 4. Mosler et al. 2008). The choice of the behaviours is related to practical and conceptual reasons: both recycling and reuse are widespread behaviours because of
CDR action and economic pressure, composting instead, not yet carried out, has been chosen in relation to the composition of the waste of Santiago (1/3 of the waste is organic). Under a conceptual point these three behaviours are different: recycling is a public behaviour that responds to a external stimulus (social reputation); reuse is private self-organized behaviour; composting is a cooperative action in order to share a compost heap.
„Attitude‟ is the factor with the greatest impact on all of them, for recycling and composting was more determinant the „sentiment‟, for reuse the „cost-value ratio‟, for this latter the „perceived reputation‟ was negligible.
The results for the two open questions (Table 4. Mosler et al. 2008) show that the majority feels a
„lack of infrastructure in the household‟, and for reuse there is massive „personal effort‟ and
„hygienic problems‟; the respondents propose more „information and events‟ carried out from „CDR activities‟, and „facilitate the infrastructure problem in the households‟.
Concluding Recycle participation could be promoted by providing bins and bags, by pro-recycling arguments and increase the presence of CDR in giving information on how to recycle.
Composting instead needs more information campaign of CDR, promotion of cooperation and share, infrastructure, and necessitates for its promotion more stress on communal and personal benefits. Reuse requires a focus on the individual side; it is considered less attractive and beneficial in reason of high perceived effort and cost-value ratio, so it would be useful to work on the social background
(for instance with CDR activities or installing a communal centers for reuse or exchange objects directly between the members of the community).
The last form of participation that we consider is „waste reduction‟: it is a front-head prevention option and has the potentiality to influence successive environmental behaviour choices. End-ofpipe solutions, despite their cost effectiveness and widespread, may reach a plateau; for instance


recycling may stuck for saturation of the market or because some materials are not recyclable
(Ebreo et al. 1999).
Ebreo et al. (1999: 108) looked at the link between two environmentally responsible behaviors: the recycling behavior and environmental responsible consumer behavior as behaviour of purchasing products that benefit or cause less harm to the environment than more conventional consumer goods. The research by questionnaires has been executed in urban and rural area of Champaign County,
Illinois. They considered as „attribute of the products‟ two categories Conservation (items related to depletion of natural resources by product packaging) and Kind to nature (items refer to product‟s effect on animal life), then for „general environmental concern and recycling attitudes‟ they adopted the NEP scale (Balance of nature, Limits to growth and Humanity over nature) and the normactivation model (Social norm, Personal norm, Ascribed responsibility and Perceived consequences), so they measured „recycling motives‟, „self-reported recycling behavior‟ and
„sociodemographic variables‟.
The rank order showed a higher concern of the respondents for „toxicity of the product‟ than for
„natural resources‟ and last for „animals‟, it seems to imply that the symbiotic relation of the ecosystem between human-animals-environment is not salient for consumers. Their position is expression of a conflict of values that can be the consequence of their perception to have a little control over the products on the market. Consumer level of education and age were positively related only to Kind to nature products, while the gender (female) were for both. „Social influence‟ was not an important predictor when compared to „motives‟ and „attitudes‟ towards the environment. The overall findings demonstrated a strict link between the two environmental behaviors in terms of elements of influence; promoting environmental consumerism implies promoting recycling because the subject that has made an earlier environmental behavioral choice is facilitated to execute the successive behavioral performance.

The last point that we wish to underline in this social science research is an advise for future project; the conditions considered for the success or failure of a program do not always match between social science and the other contingent sciences as physical, economical and cultural science. Confirmation of this assumption derives from the narratives of Campbell (2002) which demonstrated that the same „environmental remediation project‟ while extremely expensive and non

environmental effective can be at the same time social successful because it involved local people in consultative and advisory process.



Allsopp M., Costner P. And Johnston P. (2001). Incineration and Human Health: State of
Knowledge of the Impacts of Waste Incinerators on Human Health. Environ Science and
Pollutant Research 8 (2): 141-145.

Brunner P. H. And Fellner J. (2007). Setting priorities for waste management strategies in developing countries. Waste Management and Research 25: 234-240.

Business Wire (2009). Amazon Defence Coalition: Chevron‟s “Amazon Chernobyl”
Lawsuit in Ecuador Subject of Congressional Hearing on Environment and Human Rights.

Campbell R. (2002). A Narrative Analysis Of Success And Failure In Environmental
Remediation. Organization and Environment 15: 259-277.

Cope J. G (1995) George Jetson and the tragedy of the commons: Applying Behaviour
Analysis to the problem of Waste Management. Environment and Behavior 27 (2): 117-121.

Ebreo A., Hershey J. And Vining J. (1999). Reducing Solid Waste Linking Recycling to
Environmentally Responsible Consumerism. Environment And Behavior 31 (1): 107-135.

El-Fadel M., Findikakis A. N. And Leckie J. O. (1997). Environmental Impacts of Solid
Waste Landfilling. Journal of Environmental Management 50: 1–25.

Environmental Protection Agency (1989). The Solid waste dilemma: An Agenda for action.
Final report of the Municipal Solid Waste Task Force, Washington DC.

Furedy C. (1984) Survival Strategies of the Urban Poor -Scavenging and Recuperation in
Calcutta. Geo Journal 8 (2): 129-136.

Joos W., Carabias V., Winistoerfer H. And Stuecheli A. (1999). Social aspects of public waste management in Switzerland. Waste Management 19: 417- 425.

Kollikkathara N., Feng H. And Stern E. (2009) A purview of waste management evolution:
Special emphasis on USA. Waste Management 29: 974–985.

Legambiente (2003). Rapporto Rifiuti S.p.A. I traffici illegali di rifiuti in Italia. Le storie, i numeri, le rotte e le responsabilità.

Misra V. And Pandey S.D. (2005). Hazardous waste, impact on health and environment for development of better waste management strategies in future in India. Environment
International 31: 417– 431.

Mosler H., Tamas A., Tobias R. And Caballero T. (2008). Deriving Interventions on the
Basis of Factors Influencing Behavioral Intentions for Waste Recycling, Composting, and
Reuse in Cuba. Environment and Behavior 40: 522-544.

Nas P. J.M. And Jaffe R. (2004). Informal Waste Management Shifting the focus from problem to potential Environment. Development and Sustainability 6: 337–353.

Sales M.G.F., Delerue-Matos D., Martins I.B., Serra I., Silva M.R. And Morais S. (2006). A waste management school approach towards sustainability. Conservation and Recycling 48:

Smit B. And Wandel J (2006). Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Global
Environmental Change 16: 282–292.

Soderman M. L. (2003). Including indirect environmental impacts in waste management planning. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 38 (3): 213-241.

United Nations (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and
Development: Our common future (Brundtland Report) A/42/427. (

United Nations (1992) Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. United Nations







West J. P., Lee S. J. And Feiock R. C. (1992). Managing Municipal Waste: Attitudes And
Opinions of Administrators and Environmentalists. Environment and Behavior 24 (1): 111133.

Young C, Ni S. And Fan K. (2010). Working towards a zero waste environment in Taiwan.
Waste Management and Research 28: 236-244.



Fig. 1. Major degradative steps during the anaerobic decomposition phase. Source: El-Fadel et al. 1997.

Fig. 2. Chemical composition of leachate from municipal solid waste. Source:
El-Fadel et al. 1997.


Fig. 3. Expenses for MSWM in Dhaka, Damascus and Vienna. Source: Brunner and Fellner 2007.

Table 1. Comparison of status quo MSWM in Vienna, Damascus and Dhaka. Source: Brunner and Fellner 2007.


Table 2. Rating of the desirability of Disposal Alternatives (percentages). Source: West et al. 1992.

Table 3. Perception of Solid Waste Management Issues (percentages). Source: West et al. 1992.


Fig. 4. The model describing Influence Patterns on the Behavioral Intentionwith respect to
Waste-Disposal Behavior. Source: Mosler et al. 2008.

Table 4. Percentages of named categories after recording of Open Answer.
Source: Mosler et al. 2008.


References:  Business Wire (2009)  Environmental Protection Agency (1989)  Legambiente (2003) Nas P. J.M. And Jaffe R. (2004). Informal Waste Management Shifting the focus from problem to potential Environment  United Nations (1987)

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