Disaster Waste Management Guidelines
Disasters and conflicts can generate large quantities of solid and liquid waste that threaten public health, hinder reconstruction and impact the environment. Disaster waste (DW) can be generated by the actual disaster and later during the response and recovery phases.
Public health risks can arise from: direct contact with waste accumulated in the streets, hazardous wastes such as asbestos, pesticides, oils and solvents, and indirectly from vectors such as flies and rodents, and from postdisaster collapse of unstable structures.
Relief and reconstruction efforts can be hindered when DW blocks access to affected populations and areas.
Environmental impacts, which are closely associated with human impacts, can include waterways, agricultural areas and communities contaminated by chemicals and heavy metals. Physical obstruction of waterways can also occur.
In most cases, DW places more burdens on communities already struggling to cope with catastrophe.
DW also presents opportunities: it may contain valuable material such as concrete, steel, and timber as well as organics for composting. This value can be realized as either a source of income or as a reconstruction material, and reduce burdens on natural resources that might otherwise be harvested for reconstruction.
Safe handling, removal and management of DW are therefore important issues in disaster response and recovery. Effective approaches can help manage DW risks to life and health and seize opportunities from the waste to support recovery and development outcomes.
Unfortunately, current DW management practice often involves either no action, in which the waste is left to accumulate and decompose, or improper action, in which the waste is removed and dumped in an uncontrolled manner. In the latter case, improper dumping may create long-term environmental problems that affect the community or occur on economically significant land and require the waste to be moved again, creating additional costs.
Although national authorities have the primary responsibility for dealing with DW, when they are overwhelmed during disasters it is unclear which international assistance agencies can provide which types of assistance to them.
These guidelines provide advice and tools to overcome these challenges and manage DW in emergency and early recovery phases. They are targeted at implementers of disaster waste management projects. Their objective is to i) minimize risks to human life and health ii) reduce risks to the environment and iii) ensure that any value in the DW is realized, to the benefit of affected communities. A wide range of stakeholders have been consulted in the development of these guidelines. They are not highly technical, but rather, a common-sense compilation of good practice drawn from experienced disaster waste primary responsibility for DW management, consequently where these guidelines are being used by parties other than national authorities it is assumed that they have an official national request for assistance. managers and existing material. National authorities have primary responsibility for DW management, consequently where these guidelines are being used by parties other than national authorities it is assumed that they have an official national request for assistance.
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.