Dipl.-Ing.(TU) Werner P. Bauer

The World Bank's "What a Waste" report from 2018 packs a punch. For the year 2030, the projected waste generation is estimated at 2.59 billion tons. By 2050, it will already be 3.4 billion tons. 36.7% will be landfilled, 33% simply thrown into the countryside, rivers, or the sea (dumps). Less than a third recycled.
"What a waste!" - Imagine the potential if all countries were to take advantage of the resources that are being lost and make use of all the solution technologies. Unfortunately, what is spreading instead is powerlessness and two survival strategies are in competition with each other rather than being complementary.

These two smart strategies are called
- waste prevention and
- landfill ban
The powerlessness is easy to understand - even if it paralyzes the awareness of the problem and of the solution in the same way among those who suffer.
Both demands are as honourable as they are toothless in their effect. "Zero waste" will not be a reality as long as there are goods that cannot be recycled.
And the call to simply ban landfills as a major emitter of methane must first implement alternatives on the gigantic scale mentioned at the beginning.
But what could be a first step? What lies ahead of these two demands? A step that reduces the flood of waste and gradually reduces landfill emissions through structural measures? I have given a lot of thought about what overriding principle might help and (This is my contribution and my entry into a possible discussion on this topic) I came across the "transparency of government information *)".
Transparency that, as a first step, gives everyone an answer as to which resources are used in our consumption and which are lost as unused waste in landfills. This information should be self-evident, easily accessible, and understandable to everyone.
Transparency that, in a second step, shows where responsibility for resource loss and environmental damage lies, and identifies opportunities to improve supply and disposal chains.
And transparency, which in a third step shows who profits from the status quo. In other words, who benefits today from the fact that things are the way they are.
Imagine knowing exactly how much CO2 was emitted by cheap roses from the supermarket, often grown thousands of miles away in inhumane (human rights!) conditions. Or the car's CO2 footprint per mile driven would be included in the cost of leasing. The possibilities of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) are vast. Just as diverse as the possibilities offered by transparency laws such as the EU's Supply Chain Sustainability Act or, for example, the new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) on sustainability reporting by companies.
However, we in the waste industry must ensure that these developments are also applied in accordance with our two survival strategies mentioned at the beginning ("waste prevention" and "landfill ban"). The resource and CO2 footprint of consumption - combined with ethical values, justice and fairness in cultivation, production, and supply chains - must be made transparent and included in pricing. Inevitably, we must question some products in general.
Similarly, in the case of a landfill site, for example, no matter how large, it must be known who is responsible for the environmental damage caused by the landfill.
I see enough confidence in these approaches to counter the growing sense of helplessness that humanity is incapable of solving its problems.
Yours, Werner Bauer
Vice President GWC
*) see also Transparency International
A guide for legislation


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