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Turning waste into jobs

Humans are the only part of ecosystems that generate waste - but its sustainable management can create jobs and cut greenhouse gas emissions, the head of UN Environment’s Central Asia Office has underlined during a major conference on waste recycling and green energy.


Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tonnes of solid waste is collected worldwide, Ms Alexeeva noted. Of all waste streams, that from electrical and electronic equipment containing new and complex hazardous substances presents the fastest-growing challenge in both developed and developing countries.


Yet systems to manage waste sustainably “can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% per year,” she stressed in a video message during the Green Energy and Waste Recycling Forum being held in Astana, Kazakhstan on 27-28 October.


Solutions include municipal collection, sorting, recycling, and secondary use of waste. Jobs linked to waste management doubled across the pan-European region between 2000 and 2010 – showing how recycling is a fast-growing business.


UN Environment therefore provides expert advice, works with governments to demonstrate the effectiveness of new technologies and raises awareness, Ms Alexeeva told representatives from an array of firms working in the waste management sector.


For example, UN Environment is currently developing a regional waste outlook for Central Asia to be launched in 2017, she revealed. More locally, waste management systems are also being developed together with the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe.  


Meanwhile, UN Environment’s Global Waste Management Outlook report - issued last year - highlighted how the price of inaction is 5-10 times greater than the cost of recycling. It includes a number of strategies to move towards a sustainable future.


There are currently 5 to 20 million people working in the small-scale entrepreneurial ‘informal’ waste sector worldwide. UN Environment estimates that the transition from linear to circular economies could open up another 9 to 25 million new jobs.


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