What does ESG and urban growth mean for waste operators? Alex Zamudio*
How waste management operators are building trust and renewing their social licence to operate as residential areas encroach and the spectre of land conflicts arises.
he world’s megacities are
of external data, from odour diaries and
it is about demonstrating a commitment to
expanding. Urbanisation is
sniff tests to formal air quality monitoring
social and environmental responsibility, and
engulfing city fringes with
systems set up by investigators.
to keeping communities onside.
challenging urban planning
Communities are increasingly impatient
and reduce the time between a problem
People are decentralising, environmental justice laws are passing and landfills are becoming part of the city’s sprawl
occurring and a solution being actioned.
As the nature of work changes, people
decisions made years or
about slow and indecisive responses to
decades ago, and landfill operators are
odour complaints, so it is more important
bearing much of the brunt.
than ever that operators minimise uncertainty
According to the UN, the proportion of the global urban population is expected to rise from 46.6% in 2000 to 58.2% in 2025
Air quality and odour emissions are
are expanding their horizons. Where they
still a challenge for waste management
once lived close to a physical workplace,
operators today despite a wide range of
they can now live much further away from
Impact on urban livability
abatement options. Lack of knowledge on
the city centre where there’s more space.
New arrivals to the city fringes come chas-
when to engage critical controls can lead
As outer-metropolitan perimeters are ex-
ing open spaces and livability, but their
to impacts on nearby communities, which
tended, residential populations are brought
moves are bringing them in closer contact
creates costly investigations and disruptions
into closer proximity to previously isolated
with waste management sites, and this is
from lawsuits and fines. Outside factors
waste and industrial facilities. Once in the
increasingly a cause of community conflict.
such as meteorological conditions play a
middle of nowhere, more landfills now have
Environmental impact from waste man-
part in management approaches, and need
residential premises near their boundaries,
agement sites affects urban livability. It’s
to be modelled with internal data to make
and some will eventually be ringed by new
the reason for a large number of complaints
abatement and control measures effective.
developments. As communities form, they
and 66.4% by 2050.
made to environmental authorities and ‘ill
have high expectations of their neighbours.
will’ in communities, with landfills often
Data-driven approaches pay off
listed as the top source.
Employing environmental modelling capabili-
laws both in the United States and in other
The passing of environmental justice (EJ)
Even one complaint directed at a site
ties and effective odour management best
countries also brings increased oversight
can lead to significant issues for operators;
practice solutions is critical to avoiding
on existing industrial facilities in locations
however, sites with odour issues can gener-
negative attention and fines. But more im-
identified as ‘overburdened communities’.
ate hundreds of complaints a month. These
portantly, at a time of heightened awareness
EJ laws can subject facilities to closures
complaints are often supported by a range
and sensitivity to climate and sustainability,
or even permit denials if they are found to be
This issue is sponsored by — ABB Australia Pty Limited — https://campaign.abb.com/ABBHVACcasestudySypkesGroup