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Open-air waste incineration: time to act urgently



One of the biggest challenges we face when trying to solve this problem is the lack of data and the lack of awareness associated with its impacts on climate and health at all levels.

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GLASGOW, UK, November 8, 2021 / APO Group / –

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Open burning of waste was first discussed at COP26, as global engineering collaboration and partners call for an end to the practice; Over one million premature deaths per year from air pollution, waste and open burning is one of the critical issues contributing to rising pollution levels, especially in urban areas.

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Countries should end the common practice of open burning of waste to mitigate climate impact, environmental pollution and improve the health of billions of people who live without waste collection services or near landfills, experts say.

Royal Academy of Engineering and Lloyd

Engineering X, a collaboration founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) joined forces with a wide range of other partners during the UN climate change negotiations in Glasgow, including UN-Habitat, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and WasteAid, to call for an end to the practice of open burning. This is the first time that the issue has been raised during discussions on climate change.

Saharan Africa

Open-air waste incineration is particularly problematic in sub-Saharan Africa, which in 2015 housed 19 of the 50 largest landfills in the world, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report. [1] [2]. Rapid urbanization and unsustainable consumption and production patterns mean the situation is worsening.

Less than 50% of waste is collected nationally in low- and middle-income countries. Current estimates suggest that 41 percent of the world’s municipal solid waste goes to surface landfills, and much of it will go on to be burned.

Burning waste releases greenhouse gases, air pollutants, reactive trace gases, toxic compounds and short-lived climate pollutants, including carbon black. Black carbon emissions are a leading cause of illness and premature death and impact climate change up to 5,000 times that of CO2.

Desta Mebratu

“One of the biggest challenges we face when trying to solve this problem is the lack of data and the lack of awareness associated with its impacts on climate and health at all levels,” said Professor Desta Mebratu, United Nations climate champion, responsible for waste. from the University of Stellenbosch. “Emissions from surface burning of waste are difficult to characterize and are therefore not widely included in nationally determined contributions. Some countries have recently attempted to incorporate them into their revised NDCs with support from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC).

A local study [3] children and adolescents living and attending school near major landfills in African urban centers reported respiratory, gastrointestinal and skin diseases. But to date, there is no international data on the health impacts of waste combustion.

Andriannah Mbandi

“This problem is so widespread and has disastrous impacts on our climate and the health of millions of people, and yet there is not enough action on it,” said Dr Andriannah Mbandi, deputy head of champions. United Nations High Level Committee on Waste. “It’s not mentioned in the climate change negotiations, it doesn’t show up on people’s radar about human health.”

High Level Champions Team

Engineering X, the UN High Level Champions Team and ISWA hope they can build enough momentum on the issue by next year’s COP in Africa to encourage world leaders to strike an international deal. to solve the problem.

Honorary Life Member of ISWA

“Now is the time to act on open burning so that we can mitigate its devastating effects on health and climate,” says Professor David C. Wilson, Honorary Life Member of ISWA, Patron of WasteAid and Engineering X advisor at COP26 with Engineering X, UN-Habitat and our other partners to drive this change. We encourage countries to tackle open burning, not only as a positive in terms of climate change mitigation, but also as an opportunity to reap health dividends, to create value from resources and provide livelihoods. “

Multimedia Studio

The official UN side event on open burning of waste will take place on Monday, November 8 at 13:15 GMT at Multimedia Studio 2 in the blue zone. You can follow the event via this link (

Africa Waste Management Outlook

[1]UNEP (2018) Africa Waste Management Outlook, United Nations Environment Program. Nairobi ,. Available at:


Waste Management in Africa

[3] UNEP (2016) Perspectives on Waste Management in Africa (

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