Engineering X, an international collaboration founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Lloyd’s Register Foundation, has awarded grants totalling half a million pounds to 16 projects aimed at tackling the human and environmental damage caused by the open burning of waste and reducing the need for this practice.
The projects, based in 13 different countries from Serbia to Senegal, will help to improve understanding of the socio-economic factors associated with open burning of waste, as well as developing educational and recycling resources to support locally-led improvements in waste management. The funding comes from the Engineering X ‘Safer End of Engineered Life’ programme that addresses the decommissioning, dismantling, and disposal of products and materials that pose a long-lasting risk to human health and the environment.
More than 2 billion people worldwide have no access to waste management systems and suffer significant morbidity from waste that is dumped or burned. Open burning of solid waste is also a major contributor to global air pollution and greenhouse gases.
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Although the problem is global, the impact of burning municipal solid waste is particularly acute in many low- and middle-income countries where people living and working close to burn sites suffer the toxic effects of polluted air, ground and water sources, including respiratory infections, immune disorders and reproductive abnormalities.
Led by academics, NGOs and social enterprises in some of the most polluted regions in the world, the 16 projects will explore how open burning affects vulnerable communities and identify ways to reduce the health risks, while also ensuring a just transition from open burning that protects livelihoods. Poor waste disposal is often linked with poverty and gender inequality as well as impacting on the oceans, agriculture and water supplies. Tackling the open burning of waste is therefore an important part of achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
These grants are funded through Engineering X’s wider programme of activity to end open burning, following work in collaboration with the UN High-level Climate Champions to launch a multi-stakeholder partnership at COP27 to end the open burning of waste in Africa by 2040, putting the issue on the global agenda for the first time.
Professor William Powrie FREng, Chair of the Engineering X Safer End of Engineered Life programme, said:
“Awareness of the open burning of waste and its impact on human health and the environment is growing but the challenges are still poorly understood. We need more information and data to develop solutions that take into account the needs of the most vulnerable people who are affected by this practice.
“Many people rely on open burning of waste for their livelihoods and it is important that real change is achieved through local, community-focused approaches.
“These projects will not only help to raise awareness of the open burning of waste and the challenge it poses for achieving our sustainable development goals, but also drive meaningful progress towards ending the practice.”
The full list of awardees follows below. More information on each can be found on the Engineering X website.