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Marie-Ange Debon


Group Senior Executive Vice President, International Division CEO, SUEZ


Sustainable cities expert
Marie-Ange Debon

Why should waste management be at the top of Global Leaders’ concerns?

Marie-Ange DEBON, Group Senior Executive Vice President, International Division CEO, SUEZ

Waste management may not yet be at the top of Global Leaders’ concerns when speaking about climate change and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. There is a good reason for it: most emissions come from countries where waste is managed under very high environmental and sanitary standards, and GHG emissions from waste management activities are maintained at low levels (2 to 3 % of national emissions). In these developed countries, it is much more important to reduce GHG emissions from energy production and transportation than from waste. And these priorities are applied uniformly to the entire world.

This biased focus overshadows a looming waste crisis in emerging economies, where investments in waste management infrastructure are lagging behind and most collected waste is disposed in open dumps or sub-standard landfills. There, waste management activities currently account for 5% of GHG emissions, but are expected to rise up to 8-10% of global emissions in 2025, a rate which would rank this sector close behind energy production (50-57%), transportation (22-27%) and agriculture.

Waste production in fast-growing urban areas is expected to nearly triple by 2025. It is critical to address this imminent crisis; solutions exist to reduce GHG emissions from waste at a much lower cost than in the energy and transportation sectors, whilst improving living conditions for local populations by reducing their exposure to hazardous air and water pollutions.

Advanced Solutions for Integrated Waste Management

Simple and affordable solutions can be implemented to address this major public health and environmental issue, and prevent significant GHG emissions. SUEZ has developed an effective integrated approach, which combines the building of sanitary landfills with complimentary recovery solutions that allow the transformation of waste into new resources such as fuel, fertilizer and biogas, thus maximizing landfill diversion. In addition to reducing health hazards and GHG emissions, these solutions are a way to support local economic and social development, and to help tackle other pressing issues such as marine litter in oceans.

To meet local needs and specificities, these innovative waste management solutions are implemented through tailor-made approaches and dialogues with local stakeholders. In the historical city of Meknes, Morocco, SUEZ rehabilitated an uncontrolled dumpsite of 22 hectares, which posed serious threats to the local environment and population. A waste disposal and recovery center was then constructed on the rehabilitated site to serve an area of 650 000 inhabitants, treating and recovering up to 300 000 tons of domestic waste per year. The center is the first of its kind in Morocco and Africa: it is equipped with modern technology and includes a sorting center, a platform to produce compost for nearby farmland, and a leachate treatment system designed to minimize GHG emissions from landfill gas. Other than its advanced recovery solutions, the project is unique in its social angle. In partnership with local authorities, 150 former informal waste pickers were organized in a sorters’ cooperative to operate the new sorting center, giving them a formal job and improving their quality of life.

There is an opportunity to address this waste crisis by deploying advanced waste management solutions that promote the circular economy. Based on first analyses, it is estimated that the implementation of these solutions would allow to avoid GHG emissions at a cost inferior to 15 USD/ton of CO2eq avoided, depending on the initial situation. In this framework, significant potential with carbon financing could be leveraged with International Financial institutions, such as the Green Climate Fund or the World Bank Group.

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