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ISWA's Initiative for Mayors and Municipalities: gastblog van ISVAG voorzitter Philip Heylen

Guest Blog: Philip Heylen Introduces ISWA’s Initiative for Mayors and Municipalities

ISVAG voorzitter Philip Heylen heeft op vraag van ISWA (International Solid Waste Association) een gastblog geschreven over het nieuwe ISWA's 'Initiative for Mayors and Municipalities', een project om waste management hoger op de politieke agenda van steden en mega-steden te zetten, omdat de impact van afval en de verwerking ervan zo groot is op de levenskwaliteit van vele miljoenen mensen wereldwijd: U leest het blogbericht van onze voorzitter hier in de integrale, Engelstalige versie: 

Philip Heylen is the honorary vice-mayor of the city of Antwerp and a member of the city council. He was also the Chair of the 2015 ISWA World Congress in Antwerp.

Philip Heylen also serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ISVAG (Inter-municipal Waste Management Organisation) in Antwerp, Belgium.





Twenty years ago, when I started my political career I knew almost nothing about waste management. What I did know was that garbage is a bit annoying. We buy goods in the supermarket and store them in our homes. And as soon as these items become surplus to use, they become a problem which we do not wish to be confronted with.

When I was asked to become chairman of the Antwerp intermunicipal waste-to-energy company ISVAG, something remarkable happened - I fell in love with waste. ISVAG processes my own household waste, and that of more than 1 million other inhabitants around Antwerp. I discovered an exciting sector and a network of enthusiastic people, which I am part of today.

To my great satisfaction, I discovered that in Flanders, as in some other parts of the world, we are doing great things when it comes to waste management. We are world champions in sorting and recycling. Every day we are thinking about how we can do it better, with ambitious objectives to prevent more, to become better in sorting and recycling, to improve our collection and processing, allowing us to recover more energy.

In 2008 I was invited to speak at the ISWA World Congress in Singapore. Again, a world opened for me. Thanks to ISWA, I have met several passionate politicians. At the same time, I unfortunately noticed that there remain far too few politicians who share this passion for waste management. For this reason, together with good friend and Deputy Mayor Doron Sapir from Tel Aviv, I have taken the initiative to reach out to mayors, vice-mayors and decision makers who determine the policy at the urban level. After all, cities - and especially megacities - play a crucial role in waste policy and politicians are in the best position to make a difference.



In 1800, only 3% of the world's population lived in cities, a figure that rose to 47% by the end of the twentieth century. The twenty-first century represents a period of further radical transformation. The world's population is expected to grow by 50% by 2050 with the clear majority of this increase is expected to be in current developing countries. The UN forecasts that today's urban population of 3.2 billion will rise to nearly 5 billion by 2030, when three out of five people will live in cities. This will impose even more pressure on the infrastructure and resources of cities.

Such changes demand action now. The total volume of waste generated globally will increase by nearly 50% over the next decade. Although cities themselves occupy only two percent of the world's space, they have a major environmental impact on a much wider area. Megacities face tremendous environmental challenges and represent a significant threat to human health. In this landscape, the role of waste management is incredibly crucial, both for the daily life, as well as for the long to medium term sustainability of these cities.

Often a major barrier for planning in waste management issues is related to the quality and availability of the information required. New tools, techniques and policies are required to integrate the environmental, economic and social factors associated with cities, to monitor growth and change across the city and to forecast areas of risk - all within shorter time frames than previously accepted. This is where we step in with our Initiative for Mayors and Municipalities - IMM.

In recent decades, ISWA has grown into a highly professional organization, the only umbrella network that brings academics, professionals and policy makers together to work together on the issues of waste and resource management. ISWA has unparalleled know-how, and a large, enthusiastic network who are willing to share their knowledge and experience.

With the IMM we want to reach out to mayors and vice-mayors. We want to offer information and know-how specifically tailored to their needs and requirements, so that they can use and convert it in local policy. There is no "one size fits all" solution, but by working together, we will achieve results, step by step. The climate and our environment can only benefit from it.

If any of you would like to contribute to our initiative or to join our group, don't hesitate to contact me or Daniel Purchase at the ISWA General Secretariat.

Philip Heylen, Honorary Vice Mayor Antwerp, Belgium