The open burning of waste takes place worldwide, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where there is a lack of waste management infrastructure. This was a key finding of the Engineering X Global Review on Safer End of Engineered Life which warned that open burning of solid waste is damaging the health of “tens of millions” of people worldwide but a lack of data means that the true scale of the problem is unknown and more research is urgently needed.
To inform the direction of our mission, Engineering X commissioned the Global Review on Safer End of Engineered Life led by the University of Leeds. This looked at what happens to consumer goods and other engineered products at the end of their useful life. This research identified the harm caused by open burning and called for urgent action to tackle this neglected issue.
Risks and benefits
The review identified the multiple and multidisciplinary nature of the risks posed to human health and the environment from the uncontrolled burning of waste such as the negative impact on:
- informal waste workers and vulnerable populations (for example, children, older people, pregnant women),
- the pollution of land, air and water
It also concluded that there are several (perceived) benefits of burning waste. For example, burning occurs to ‘get rid’ of accumulated waste or in the form of regular burning as an accepted practice.
Following this evidence gathering, we sought to raise the issue of open burning on the global agenda and catalyse action around this long-neglected issue.
Upcoming activities at COP28
Open burning of waste was raised on the global agenda for the first time in a side event at COP26 in Glasgow. Since then the visibility and tackling of the challenge has increased rapidly. It was included in the UNEP Medium Term strategy and a resolution was signed by 54 African Environment Ministers to eliminate the open burning of waste in Africa by 2040.
How to get involved
1. Find out more about Waste and Resources at COP28 in Dubai
Visit our partners the International Solid Waste Association at their Waste and Resources Pavilion, highlighting the increasing priority of waste on the high-level climate agenda.
2. Attend a session on the challenges of open burning waste
As part of the Multi Stakeholder Partnership to end open burning of waste in Africa by 2040, we have two sessions that bring the challenge of open burning to the agenda.
- Session 1: Building a Financial Model to Sustain Open Waste Burning Early Warning Systems for Better Governance, Health and Sustainable Livelihoods
- Session 2: Methods and Tools to Evaluate, Assess and Communicate the Multi-stakeholder Partnership (MSP) piloted initiatives to Accelerate the Elimination of Open Waste Burning
Full details for each session are below.
Building a Financial Model to Sustain Open Waste Burning Early Warning Systems for Better Governance, Health and Sustainable Livelihoods
Session summary: This session will showcase the implementation of COP pledges and the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) resolution by leveraging data and technology use in curbing waste mismanagement and enhancing circularity in Africa. It will highlight the practical examples of projects that have been funded and implemented by various partners in support of sustainable waste management, early warning systems and social inclusive development based circular economy initiatives.
Date: 2 December
Time: 3.00pm – 4.00pm (local time)
Location: Digital Innovation Pavillion
Organisational Lead: Airtel Africa, United Nations High Level Climate Champions (UNHLC)
Methods and Tools to Evaluate, Assess and Communicate the Multi-stakeholder Partnership (MSP) piloted initiatives to Accelerate the Elimination of Open Waste Burning
This session will focus on the initial phase of the implementation of $2 million pilot projects from the Multi Stakeholder Partnership to eliminate open waste burning in developing countries prioritizing Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Date: 3 December
Time: 11.00am – 12.30pm (local time)
Location: Waste and Resources Pavilion
Organisational Lead: ISWA, UNHLC, Engineering X
Join our community
Building on the two global workshops we held in 2021, our community continues to build and share knowledge through an online Community of Practice, For information about the workshops read on or to contribute to the conversation around Open burning waste join our linkedin group.
Workshop outcomes 2021
In 2021 115 participants from more than 23 countries attended workshops on open burning waste. These were hosted by the Engineering X open burning theme leads, Dr Mansoor Ali and Dr Terry Tudor, and run in partnership with our partners the International Solid Waste Association. The aim was to contextualise and build upon the findings from the Global Review, as well as provide recommendations for the future of our work in this area.
Participants identified key reasons and drivers for change as:
Reason: open burning was mainly due to poor waste management systems and inadequate disposal sites. The key drivers for change were noted as:
Changes needed: improving waste management systems; providing training; enforcing legislation and initiatives; developing recycling initiatives; and raising safety standards.
It was also recommended that the link between open burning of waste and climate change be emphasised as a way to move the issue higher up the global agenda.
For more information on workshop resources and outputs, visit the resources page.