Working with the wasteshed

News | Posted on Friday 22 March 2019

Researchers and practitioners from the UK, Jordan, Israel and Palestine came together earlier this month for a workshop to develop waste management practices grounded in the lived experiences of long-term residents of refugee camps.

Trolley workers in Za'atari refugee camp

A growing population globally has been displaced by political conflict and environmental stress and is living within refugee camps, sometimes for decades. Current waste management systems within these areas are identified as a major threat to human health and wellbeing requiring a variety of management solutions within an area of limited resource.

Representatives from The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Norweigan Church Aid, Oxfam, Palestine’s Aida Camp, and Jordan’s Za’atari Camp joined international engineers and researchers for a workshop in Amman, Jordan from the 4th to 7th March 2019 to build an action research agenda for refugee waste management.

The conference began with an opportunity for attendees to explore the commonalities and differences in the failures of past refugee camp waste management before using mapped local waste flows to identify potential to reduce environmental impact and risk. The delegates visited the Za’atari camp for a facility tour of Oxfam’s awarding-winning cash-for-work recycling project which gives the opportunity for a much needed cash injection direct to refugees. The conference culminated in the development of the ‘Wasteshed’ Network to maintain the research links formed.

YESI’s Katie Privett, who facilitated the event, stated “the conference was an important step forward in improving our understanding of current and emerging practices in the waste management of refugee camps. There was a lot of experience in the room and although there is clearly a lot more to do, there was a definite feeling of progress being made.”

Moving forward, researchers from the University of York will visit Uganda Christian University next week to gather information regarding the Bidibidi refugee camp. The Wasteshed Network will also explore potential funding opportunities to conduct future high-impact research to co-develop new approaches to waste management, to be piloted with three contrasting refugee camps. It is intended that this will lead to changes in practices in camps in the short to medium term, and potential changes in policy in the longer term.