X.8 Solid Waste Management

Appropriate Solid Waste Management (SWM) is critical for public health. This is particularly true in emergencies and situations of humanitarian crisis as existing services, such as collection, treatment or disposal, may be disrupted. Additionally, extra waste caused by the crisis may have a public health impact. On one hand disasters and conflicts can result in large amounts of waste, in particular debris and remains from building and other wreckage. On the other hand, displacement of people and new temporary settlements (camps) will require new arrangements. Unmanaged solid waste attracts insects and animals that can act as disease transmitting vectors, such as flies, rats, or other animals scavenging the garbage. Solid waste littered into drainage channels will cause blockages, flooding or stagnant ponds. This can propagate the breeding of mosquitoes that transmit malaria, dengue and yellow fever. Large piles of unmanaged solid waste are often set on fire and smoke can be a health hazard if the burning waste contains items such as plastics or chemicals. Exposure to unmanaged hazardous waste, such as excreta (from the lack of sanitation facilities), infectious medical waste, sharp items (needles, glass) or toxic chemicals may be a further direct threat to people’s health. Soil and water, in contact with waste, become rapidly contaminated threatening soil quality, food safety, as well as surface and groundwater resource quality. Finally, yet importantly, indiscriminately dumped solid waste in a settlement area is unappealing and lowers the pride of communities.

Consists of urine and faeces that are not mixed with any flushwater. Excreta is relatively small in volume, but concentrated in both nutrients and pathogens. Depending on the characteristics of the faeces and the urine content, it can have a soft or runny consistency.Refers to (semi-solid) excrement that is not mixed with urine or water. Depending on diet, each person produces approximately 50–150 L per year of faecal matter of which about 80 % is water and the remaining solid fraction is mostly composed of organic material. Of the total essential plant nutrients excreted by the human body, faeces contain around 39 % of the phosphorus (P), 26 % of the potassium (K) and 12 % of the nitrogen (N). Faeces also contain the vast majority of the pathogens excreted by the body, as well as energy and carbon rich, fibrous material.The liquid produced by the body to rid itself of nitrogen in the form of urea and other waste products. In this context, the urine product refers to pure urine that is not mixed with faeces or water. Depending on diet, human urine collected from one person during one year (approx. 300 to 550 L) contains 2 to 4 kg of nitrogen. The urine of healthy individuals is sterile when it leaves the body but is often immediately contaminated by coming into contact with faeces.Water that is located beneath the earth’s surface. Any substance that is used for growth. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are the main nutrients contained in agricultural fertilisers. N and P are also primarily responsible for the eutrophication of water bodies. An organism or other agent that causes disease.The means of safely collecting and hygienically disposing of excreta and liquid wastes for the protection of public health and the preservation of the quality of public water bodies and, more generally, of the environment. The organic molecule (NH2)2CO that is excreted in urine and that contains the nutrient nitrogen. Over time, urea breaks down into carbon dioxide and ammonium, which is readily used by organisms in soil. It can also be used for on-site faecal sludge treatment. See. S.18An organism (most commonly an insect) that transmits a disease to a host. For example, flies are vectors as they can carry and transmit pathogens from faeces to humans.

The Solid Waste Management “System”

Solid waste can be broadly defined as any unwanted solid product or material generated by people or industrial processes that has no value for the one who discards it. Other terms for solid waste are “garbage”, “trash”, “refuse” and “rubbish”. With denser settlement patterns, solid waste challenges become more acute. Municipal solid waste refers to solid wastes deriving from settlements (houses, shops, offices, lying on streets and in public places) and is usually the responsibility of local government. Although other solid waste generated inside municipal areas, for instance excreta from lacking sanitation facilities, or waste from industrial processes or construction are typically not identified as "municipal waste", they nevertheless need to be considered as they also end up in the municipal solid waste stream. Integrated sustainable waste management (see figure 6) incorporates considerations of all physical elements of the waste management system, starting from waste generation through storage, collection, transport, recycling, treatment and final disposal. It furthermore includes governance and strategic considerations including economic and financial sustainability, political/legal and institutional aspects, and the involvement of all stakeholders (various waste generators and service users, informal and formal waste service providers and waste users, international agencies, local, regional and national governments, civil society and nongovernmental organisations, etc.).

Figure 6:
The Integrated Sustainable Waste Management (ISWM) Framework (adapted from UNEP 2015)

Consists of urine and faeces that are not mixed with any flushwater. Excreta is relatively small in volume, but concentrated in both nutrients and pathogens. Depending on the characteristics of the faeces and the urine content, it can have a soft or runny consistency.Refers to (semi-solid) excrement that is not mixed with urine or water. Depending on diet, each person produces approximately 50–150 L per year of faecal matter of which about 80 % is water and the remaining solid fraction is mostly composed of organic material. Of the total essential plant nutrients excreted by the human body, faeces contain around 39 % of the phosphorus (P), 26 % of the potassium (K) and 12 % of the nitrogen (N). Faeces also contain the vast majority of the pathogens excreted by the body, as well as energy and carbon rich, fibrous material.The liquid produced by the body to rid itself of nitrogen in the form of urea and other waste products. In this context, the urine product refers to pure urine that is not mixed with faeces or water. Depending on diet, human urine collected from one person during one year (approx. 300 to 550 L) contains 2 to 4 kg of nitrogen. The urine of healthy individuals is sterile when it leaves the body but is often immediately contaminated by coming into contact with faeces.Any substance that is used for growth. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are the main nutrients contained in agricultural fertilisers. N and P are also primarily responsible for the eutrophication of water bodies. An organism or other agent that causes disease.The means of safely collecting and hygienically disposing of excreta and liquid wastes for the protection of public health and the preservation of the quality of public water bodies and, more generally, of the environment. The organic molecule (NH2)2CO that is excreted in urine and that contains the nutrient nitrogen. Over time, urea breaks down into carbon dioxide and ammonium, which is readily used by organisms in soil. It can also be used for on-site faecal sludge treatment. See. S.18

Planning and Implementing Solid Waste Management Services

For an appropriate and sustainable SWM service, the following tasks should be considered:

Planning/implementation in coordination and inclusion of all relevant stakeholders: SWM services must be planned and implemented in coordination with service users, relevant agencies and authorities, and potential or existing service providers. This should happen before a solid waste problem becomes a major health risk to the affected population.

Consideration of links to other sanitation branches: Solid waste can create a range of challenges in other branches of sanitation. Litter can clog stormwater channels, creating standing water and overflows leading to flooding of streets and houses. Solid waste thrown into pit latrines can make it very difficult to empty these latrines and to further treat, process and reuse/dispose of the faecal sludge collected in the pits. These links should be considered, especially for awareness raising campaigns.

Assessment and understanding of waste generation and current waste practices: The basis of all planning and implementation is to measure how much (kg) and know what type (organic, plastic etc.) of waste is generated. Besides household waste, waste streams with high-risk potential (e.g. healthcare waste) must be carefully evaluated.

Consideration of menstrual hygiene products: Menstrual hygiene products which are not disposed of correctly can create challenges, e.g. by clogging toilets or due to their infectious nature. Menstrual hygiene product waste is usually produced within toilet cubicles. Therefore, solid waste bins with a lid and lining should be provided and operated and managed within all public toilets and people should be educated on the correct and safe disposal of menstrual hygiene products.

Fostering an environment that avoids and reduces waste: Not using materials that are not essential, are hazardous or difficult to handle (e.g. disposable plastic water sachets, multicomponent materials, solvents or aerosol cans) is one way to structurally avoid waste. Furthermore, measures at the service-user level can incentivise behavior change to lessen waste generation.

Enhancing recovery, recycling and ensuring treatment: Waste should be seen as a resource. Enhancing recycling on-site (at household level) or off-site (neighbourhood or central level) not only reduces need (and costs) for residual waste management, but can also provide employment opportunities to the local population and reduce dependency on external resources. To boost recycling, implementing waste segregation (as early as possible) is a key activity. This augments the value of different waste fractions and eases further processing. Typical examples are the processing of organic waste by composting for fertiliser, or an aerobic digestion for energy, recycling of waste paper for briquettes and fuel, or recycling of other waste streams (rubber, plastic, metal) to produce secondary low-cost products. Nevertheless, the technologies and approaches selected and implemented should consider market demand for waste derived end products, and not aggravate health risk and environmental pollution. Mixed waste incineration is usually not a favourable option as such waste typically has a high moisture content and the technology requires high capital expenditure, highly skilled and costly operation and management, and results in severe respiratory health hazards and environmental contamination.

Provision of a collection and transport system: Removing waste from residential areas avoids its accumulation in the neighbourhood. Regular collection avoids contact and exposure of residents to waste and eliminates attraction and proliferation of disease transmitting animal vectors. It also decreases the risk of waste burning, a measure often used to eliminate waste, which results in severe respiratory health hazards. The potential for small scale business development should be considered. Often an informal sector is active and can be professionalised.

Ensuring safe disposal: It comprises selection of a location that avoids contamination of surface and groundwater with waste leachate. Disposal sites should be fenced off to prevent access by people and animals. Furthermore, drainage around the site should avoid water flowing into the waste. The waste tipping face at the site should be covered daily or at least weekly with a thin layer of earth to prevent attracting vectors such as flies and rodents. .

Planning of clean-up campaigns: In consultation with the population and responsible local authorities it will be necessary to organise periodic cleaning of public spaces to ensure a hygienic environment but also remind and reactivate the necessity of public participation in neighbourhood cleanliness as a civil duty and citizen responsibility.

Ensuring safe waste management from healthcare facilities: Healthcare waste may expose the population, healthcare workers and waste handlers to the risk of infections, toxic effects and injuries. In a disaster situation, the most hazardous types of waste are likely to be chemicals or infectious wastes (wound dressings, blood-stained cloths, syringes and other sharps, etc.). Such waste should be separated at source from non-infectious waste (paper, plastic wrappings, food waste, etc.) for special treatment (incineration or controlled containment).

Safeguarding staff welfare: All staff involved in waste management must be provided with protective clothing and equipment to safeguard against exposure to the hazards in waste. When necessary, immunisation against tetanus and hepatitis B should be provided.

Development of an appropriate operation and maintenance structure: A plan for sustainable operation of waste management services must consider social acceptance, financial sustainability, workers’ skills and capacities as well as a suitable legal and institutional setup. Some key questions that need to be resolved are: What participation is required from the service users and how can this be ensured? Who provides what kind of service? How is the service monitored and evaluated? How are the costs of this service covered in long term?

Describes biological processes that occur in the presence of oxygen. Decomposed organic matter that results from a controlled aerobic degradation process. In this biological process, microorganisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) decompose the biodegradable waste components and produce an earth-like, odourless, brown/black material. Compost has excellent soil-conditioning properties and a variable nutrient content. Because of leaching and volatilisation, some of the nutrients may be lost, but the material remains rich in nutrients and organic matter. Generally, excreta or sludge should be composted long enough (2 to 4 months) under thermophilic conditions (55 to 60 °C) in order to be sanitised sufficiently for safe agricultural use.Consists of urine and faeces that are not mixed with any flushwater. Excreta is relatively small in volume, but concentrated in both nutrients and pathogens. Depending on the characteristics of the faeces and the urine content, it can have a soft or runny consistency.Refers to (semi-solid) excrement that is not mixed with urine or water. Depending on diet, each person produces approximately 50–150 L per year of faecal matter of which about 80 % is water and the remaining solid fraction is mostly composed of organic material. Of the total essential plant nutrients excreted by the human body, faeces contain around 39 % of the phosphorus (P), 26 % of the potassium (K) and 12 % of the nitrogen (N). Faeces also contain the vast majority of the pathogens excreted by the body, as well as energy and carbon rich, fibrous material.Include sanitary napkins, tampons or other materials used by women and girls to manage menstruation. As they are often disposed alongside dry cleaning materials in a sanitation system, some specific precautionary measures are advisable (e.g. separate bins). Generally, they should be treated along with the generated solid waste (see X.8).Mixture of solids and liquids, containing mostly excreta and water, in combination with sand, grit, metals, trash and/or various chemical compounds. A distinction can be made between faecal sludge and wastewater sludge. Faecal sludge comes from on-site sanitation technologies, i.e. it has not been transported through a sewer. It can be raw or partially digested, a slurry or semisolid, and results from the collection and storage/treatment of excreta or blackwater, with or without greywater. Wastewater sludge (also referred to as sewage sludge) originates from sewer-based wastewater collection and (semi-)centralised treatment processes. The sludge composition will determine the type of treatment that is required and the end-use possibilities.General term for rainfall runoff collected from roofs, roads and other surfaces. Very often the term is used to refer to rainwater that enters a sewerage system. It is the portion of rainfall that does not infiltrate into the soil.The liquid produced by the body to rid itself of nitrogen in the form of urea and other waste products. In this context, the urine product refers to pure urine that is not mixed with faeces or water. Depending on diet, human urine collected from one person during one year (approx. 300 to 550 L) contains 2 to 4 kg of nitrogen. The urine of healthy individuals is sterile when it leaves the body but is often immediately contaminated by coming into contact with faeces.Describes technologies for on-site collection, storage, and sometimes (pre-) treatment of the products generated at the user interface. The treatment provided by these technologies is often a function of storage and is usually passive (i.e. requires no energy input), except a few emerging technologies where additives are needed. Thus, products that are ‘treated’ by these technologies often require subsequent treatment before use and/or disposal. In the technology overview graphic, this functional group is subdivided into the two subgroups: “Collection/Storage” and “(Pre-)Treatment”. This allows a further classification for each of the listed technologies with regard to their function: collection and storage, (pre-) treatment only or both.Refers to the methods through which products are returned to the environment, either as useful resources or reduced-risk materials. Some products can also be cycled back into a system (e.g. by using treated greywater for flushing).A functional group is a grouping of technologies that have similar functions. The compendium proposes five different functional groups from which technologies can be chosen to build a sanitation system: User interface (U), Collection and Storage/Treatment (S), Conveyance (C), (Semi-) Centralised Treatment (T), Use and/or Disposal (U). A sanitation system is a multi-step process in which sanitation products such as human excreta and wastewater are managed from the point of generation to the point of use or ultimate disposal. It is a context-specific series of technologies and services for the management of these sanitation products, i.e. for their collection, containment, transport, treatment, transformation, use or disposal. A sanitation system comprises functional groups of technologies that can be selected according to context. By selecting technologies from each applicable functional group, considering the incoming and outgoing products, and the suitability of the technologies in a particular context, a logical, modular sanitation system can be designed. A sanitation system also includes the management and operation and maintenance (O & M) required to ensure that the system functions safely and sustainably. Simple, single cell organisms that are found everywhere on earth. They are essential for maintaining life and performing essential “services”, such as composting, aerobic degradation of waste, and digesting food in our intestines. Some types, however, can be pathogenic and cause mild to severe illnesses. Bacteria obtain nutrients from their environment by excreting enzymes that dissolve complex molecules into more simple ones which can then pass through the cell membrane. The process by which biodegradable components are biologically decomposed by microorganisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) under controlled aerobic conditions. The utilisation of products derived from a sanitation system. The liquid that has passed through a filter. Water that is located beneath the earth’s surface. The liquid fraction that is separated from the solid component by gravity filtration through a media (e.g., liquid that drains from drying beds). Any cellular or non-cellular microbiological entity capable of replication or of transferring genetic material (e.g. bacteria, viruses, protozoa, algae or fungi). Any substance that is used for growth. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are the main nutrients contained in agricultural fertilisers. N and P are also primarily responsible for the eutrophication of water bodies. A sanitation system in which excreta and wastewater are collected and stored or treated on the plot where they are generated. An organism or other agent that causes disease.A diverse group of unicellular eukaryotic organisms, including amoeba, ciliates, and flagellates. Some can be pathogenic and cause mild to severe illnesses. Use of recycled water or other sanitation products. The means of safely collecting and hygienically disposing of excreta and liquid wastes for the protection of public health and the preservation of the quality of public water bodies and, more generally, of the environment. Waste matter that is transported through the sewer. An open channel or closed pipe used to convey sewage. See C.3 and C.4 The physical sewer infrastructure (sometimes used interchangeably with sewage). User interface used for urination and defecation. The organic molecule (NH2)2CO that is excreted in urine and that contains the nutrient nitrogen. Over time, urea breaks down into carbon dioxide and ammonium, which is readily used by organisms in soil. It can also be used for on-site faecal sludge treatment. See. S.18An organism (most commonly an insect) that transmits a disease to a host. For example, flies are vectors as they can carry and transmit pathogens from faeces to humans. An infectious agent consisting of a nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) and a protein coat. Viruses can only replicate in the cells of a living host. Some pathogenic viruses are known to be waterborne (e.g., the rotavirus that can cause diarrheal disease). Used water from any combination of domestic, industrial, commercial or agricultural activities, surface runoff/stormwater, and any sewer inflow/infiltration.

Rapid Emergency Response

Immediately after an emergency/disaster, hygiene and waste disposal are usually poor, so vermin and other pests, including rodents, can spread and breed rapidly. The Sphere minimum standard for SWM states that the environment should be free from littering by solid waste, including medical waste and that there should be means of safely disposing domestic waste. All households should have access to refuse containers and these should be within 100 m from communal refuse pits and be emptied twice a week. Refuse containers should be a minimum of 100 L in size for every 10 households. Medical waste has to be isolated and disposed of separately and safely. Another high priority is debris clearance and respective waste clean-up. This is necessary to provide access to emergency response services, rescue survivors, retrieve dead bodies and address urgent public health and environmental issues. Management of disaster waste will depend on the types of waste and debris generated. During the rapid response phase, any hazardous waste and human or animal remains should be separated from other waste streams wherever possible. Temporary, and if possible, final disposal sites need to be rapidly identified and prepared. Restoring services must consider long term feasibility.

From Emergency Towards Development

Routines should be rapidly developed and implemented for waste storage, collection and disposal. This is particularly important in high-density sites such as refugee camps. In urban and out-of-camp settings, national systems should be used and strengthened. Such plans should also integrate a long-term development vision that enhances recycling and recovery options, technical skills and capacity, financial self-sufficiency and various other elements of a sustainable SWM system. A camp can be treated like an urban area, however here SWM is a joint responsibility of camp coordination and camp management that ensures coordination and collaboration with the WASH and health sectors.

arrow_upward