6. Choosing Appropriate Technologies

All cities must consider a number of factors when choosing appropriate technologies for collection and disposal of solid waste.

Collection. Municipalities often spend as much as 70 per cent of their operating budgets for SWM on hauling costs alone due to rising transportation costs, outdated, poorly maintained machinery, and inefficient existing collection routes. The city can lease this service to private companies. Experience has shown that private sector SWM costs between 20 and 40 per cent less than the same public services and that privatization of SWM and facilitating the entry of private providers contributes to the adaptation of best practices and appropriate technologies. However, SWM authorities must be aware that such a shift usually requires both decrease in employment in the waste sector and institutional shift of focus of public SWM authorities from service provision to oversight and regulation (both to ensure that companies meet the relevant standards and that they are not colluding).

Disposal and its alternatives. When planning the adoption of solid waste technologies, SWM authorities should consider the following issues:

•           Planning, construction and implementation of new sanitary landfills are costly, so the alternative of small to medium-scale solid waste management practices should be considered.

•           The tendency for municipalities to import expensive "end-of-pipe" technologies, such as collection vehicles and processing plants, often leads to additional unsustainable costs in training, repair and site maintenance.

•           Dump upgrade, involving measures such as landfill liners, mandated landfill disposal standards, and low-cost remediation, along with improved waste minimization strategies may prove to be cost-effective alternatives to the expensive new SWM sites.

Health. Toxic runoff, pollution of water and soil, methane gas emission from unregulated landfills, and unsustainable areas subject to settling that often become informal settlements later, are just a few of the environmental and health challenges resulting from poor SWM. Uncontrolled dumping greatly endangers the immediate health of both informal sector waste workers and nearby inhabitants. Additionally, uncontrolled dumping has adverse effects on all urban residents, thus impacting the public health of the urban area, through water supply, air and soil contamination. Authorities must consider the public health impact of their current SWM strategies, as well as the health benefits and cost-effectiveness of alternative strategies for upgrading SWM, e.g., whether to emphasize landfill improvements, expansion of solid waste collection, or other measures as initial investment priority.

The recycling industry changes fast and involves a wide variety of service and product businesses, from companies that collect and process all sorts of materials to those that reuse materials or manufacture recyclable products. The industry also supports businesses in public education, consulting, transportation, brokerage, and retail of recycled products. Recycling-based manufacture has the greatest economic, social, and environmental benefits within the industry. The manufacture with reused and recycled materials can be a profitable enterprise.

In the recycling industry, the small entrepreneur has almost unlimited chances. However, some businesses are easier to start than others. Since materials' added value is the key for business profitability, one method involves use of materials with very low or negative costs of making a new product of much higher market value. Due to their low values, green or mixed-coloured glass, mixed paper, plastics, scrap tires, and construction and demolition waste such as scrap wood, have great potential.

Another approach to manufacturing a product that is already on the market involves substituting virgin materials with recycled materials or producing a recycled product locally, using local materials. Only a very small percentage of products that are distributed on the market nowadays are truly new inventions.

Job creation from recycling activities far outweighs disposal on a per ton basis. Jobs and wages increase when recyclable materials are collected, processed and manufactured. Sorting and processing of recyclables provide ten times more jobs than would be available if the same materials were thrown away.

Manufacturers that use recyclable materials to make new products, employ even more people at higher wages than sorting and processing companies. For instance, some recycling-based paper mills and plastic product manufacturers employ between 25-60 times as many workers as landfills do on per ton basis.