International Waste Management; Crises and Opportunities by David Brown

Here David Brown, Waste Development David Officer for Derbyshire County Council, gives a talk about International waste management; the crises and opportunities which are presented to us.  In an age of neo-magical thinking, the culture which has developed is wasteful – that is, we imagine things both have no cost to the environment, and that our waste just magically disappears when it is out of sight. This is the major crises of our time as we are discovering in quick and powerful terms that the planets resources (of which the ecosystems which keep us alive are included) are finite.

Waste Hierarchy


David talks about his work as an environmental officer and examines how waste is managed across the world helping us to understand the complexities and also dispel some of the myths. There are lots of different perspectives taken around the idea of recycling and preserving the environment, from the idea that it is expensive and wasteful in itself, to it is too late to do anything significant about the issues which have been created, and it is too complicated as a problem for us to deal with.


In this podcast you can listen as David unpacks the work he has been involved in over the years and shows how doing simple, small things, helps on a large scale.


The practical matters of waste management are one of the most significant issues we are facing as the population of humans on the planet is past seven billion. He also shows what opportunities there are for us to face these issues illustrating that many potentials are unleashed when we use our resources well.




A slow motion but relentless environmental economic crisis is underway in many countries as vast quantities of natural resources are transformed into industrial and consumer products with short life spans, no clear pathway for reuse or recycling once discarded and a high likelihood of causing environmental harm when sent for disposal.


In this talk I examine how in some developing countries the speed of industrialisation and rise  of consumption has out-stripped the ability or willingness of authorities to manage the surge in waste that accompanies this break-neck change.


I’ll give specific examples and disturbing photographs will highlight the scale of the challenge facing some governments and communities and attention will need to be paid to the aggregate impact on the world’s oceans which often represent the ultimate sink for our unwanted wastes.


By looking at the correlation between income and waste production per head the rapid trend to an even more wasteful and unsustainable global economic system can be explored.


Realisation of the risks posed by ineffective waste management is now recognised by more governments and all around the world there are examples of increasingly educated communities challenging their governments to act or taking direct constructive action themselves. It is hoped that rising environmental awareness from citizens, the economic imperatives of business and the impact of pressure and local community action groups will cumulatively result in future improvements. The empowerment of populations caused by the spread of modern communications, better access to education and tools such as social media can cumulatively drive the management of wastes on to a more sustainable footing across ever greater areas of the world.


We all need to know how we can contribute. I’ll give examples of progress in Derbyshire will be s well as examples of the benefits that can result from often simple changes in consumer choices and behaviour here in the UK.


I can’t remember when I haven’t been obsessed with waste. When I was five or six I drew a dump of tea in my art lesson and there has been no looking back since then. I spent many a (not so) pleasurable hour in a past job walking around land fill sites. Consequently, with colleagues, I now run a Recycling Road Show in Derbyshire, an initiative of Derbyshire County Council. I do have a life beyond waste, I really do; this is my waste related biography.



Helpful Information Resources:

United Nations Environment Programme: The Global Garbage Crisis; No Time to Waste


United Nations Environment Programme: Chemicals and Waste


Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Policy Paper: Waste Prevention Programme for England


Love Food Hate Waste: Whatever food you love, we can help you waste less and save you money


Derbyshire County Council: Rubbish, Waste and Recycling


Facts & figure: Watch our videos to find out how the recycling process works