RAE -Burning issue: how can we reduce the global impact of open burning of waste?

15th September 2021 5:00 pm

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Critical conversations online series of topical fireside chats bring together the thoughts of leading experts from across the Academy’s networks including Fellows, awardees and engineering partners.

In this Critical conversation, Academy Chief Executive, Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, will discuss with guests the impact of this dangerous and complex problem, and explore what engineers and wider society can do to address it, whilst ensuring that communities and livelihoods are protected. Addressing open burning of waste is part of the Engineering X Safer End of Engineered Life programme.

The uncontrolled burning of waste takes place worldwide, particularly in low- and middle- income countries where collection and disposal systems are often poor or completely absent. This underdiscussed practice has severe health impacts for waste workers and communities; it is estimated that one person dies every 30 seconds in low- and middle- income countries due to the mismanagement of waste and open burning. Furthermore, open burning produces a wide range of atmospheric pollutants that contribute significantly to climate change with estimates of a scale equivalent to 2-10% of global CO2Eq emissions: potentially double the impact of aviation but attracting a fraction of the attention and finance.

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