Up to one billion tonnes of solid waste is being openly burned worldwide each year and risks the health of “tens of millions of people”, according to a review of the latest scientific evidence.
That amounts to about half of all the solid waste generated on earth.
Open burning produces a range of potentially toxic emissions which endangers people who live and work near to where material is being openly burned, often in low to middle income countries. That includes 11 million informal waste workers, known as ‘waste pickers’ – men, women and children – who play a pivotal role in collecting and recycling waste material.
The research was led by Dr Costas Velis and Ed Cook from the University of Leeds for Engineering X, a collaboration founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Lloyd’s Register Foundation and the Newton Fund to help solve some of the biggest problems facing humankind.
The review was carried out in partnership with specialist organisations, including the International Solid Waste Association.