Never more than now, has there been a need to come together to tackle our planet’s environmental crisis and create active change and global sustainability, where it’s needed most.
In the UK and other developed nations, we are privileged enough to have advanced systems in place to collect and process our waste, including people hired by the state to do the job, to make our environment greener and cleaner. However, even with these systems in place, the problem isn’t solved and the impact is still considerable.
Now, cast your attention to developing countries, who have minimal infrastructure and finances to develop the necessary, accelerating populations, growing central business districts and waste - combine them all together and then we can finally start comprehending the full scale of this issue.
So, why is recycling and waste management such an issue you’re probably wondering? Glad you asked…
Without the appropriate infrastructure people are forced to dispose of it by open burning, burying and dumping. The result is, unmanaged and ever expanding open landfills, engulfing the edges of cities, where waste decomposes and releases methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfill gas also contributes to smog, which in turn creates or worsens a number of health issues, such as asthma.
In 2016, the World Bank reported 5% of global emissions were generated from unmanaged waste. Malawi is just one of these locations in East Africa, where waste is poorly managed, causing huge negative environmental and social implications.
Nyomi Rowsell, is a social and environmental activist, eco-architect and founder of International Conservation and Clean-up Management (ICCM). She visited Malawi in 2012 and soon fell in love with it’s culture and its people, won over by their human spirit and resourceful approach to living. However, she soon discovered that despite having a large presence of NGOs in Malawi, funds were often directed to equally important causes such as Health and Education, leaving waste management consistently under-funded and valued.
Attitudes are slowly changing towards this area, especially after the COP26 along with growing environmental movements. However, the necessity to roll out new methods is often slowed by lack of education and resources which minimises sustainable livelihood development.
This vital need for tackling the environmental effects of waste management, inspired Nyomi to set-up ICCM - a registered social enterprise, who’s key mission is to empower people to protect the environment, through training and education. Through innovative waste processing, ICCM is able create visible social and economic growth, in form of jobs, products and community solidarity, all from waste.
“Despite the negative impact unmanaged waste has on these developing nations, local economies are also missing out on opportunities to create income from their waste products'' says Nyomi. “I’m blown away by the people of Malawi. Not just as people, but their ingenuity, innovative designs, use of resources, and a hands-on approach to living. They’re quick and eager to learn. But, we need more volunteers to help build the capacity of the members of the community.”
With just some small investment from responsible businesses, along with the sharing of knowledge and experience, communities will be able to transform the negative impact of waste. Using integrated waste management will not only help create a circular economy for Malawi, but provide a consistent source of green energy, not to mention aid reforestation for future generations. This can then be replicated across all developing countries.
But like any situation, this crisis cannot simply be rectified by throwing money at it. ICCM needs boots on the ground - key workers and volunteers - individuals with a focus for active change, from all walks of life and institutions, to collaborate together to begin a new wave of tackling climate change. A model that will begin in Malawi, but continue worldwide.
ICCM invites you to join our volunteering programme to learn and contribute to our environmental architecture and development programs. For more information please visit www.iccmanagement.org and let’s instigate change, together.