Resource Use

New report exposes global undervaluing of urban waste services

Waste management company FCC Environment is urging the sector to prove its value to the public after new research found that citizens in urban areas do not value their waste services as highly as other forms of infrastructure.

The ‘Urban infrastructure insights 2015’ report, published today by Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC), documents new research by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) regarding the global state of urban infrastructure.

The paper reports a mismatch between public opinion and the ‘pressing need’ for investment in urban waste collection services, revealing that ‘hidden infrastructure’ of this sort is often undervalued by citizens in comparison to other areas of infrastructure such as transport.

Report details

New report exposes global undervaluing of urban waste services

The EIU interviewed over 400 policy makers and business executives from around the world regarding the state of urban infrastructure and the ways that city leaders should secure support and investment for renovation and development projects.

The aim of the project was to examine:

  • the infrastructure systems that require the most attention globally;
  • the way that infrastructure impacts economic growth in urban areas;
  • the social, political and financial obstacles that threaten infrastructure developments;
  • the relationship between citizens, government authorities and service providers; and
  • how city leaders can develop infrastructure solutions that business leaders and citizens will support.

Although 75 per cent of respondents described their city’s infrastructure as ‘currently adequate’, 68 per cent stated that increased funding is needed within the next five years if urban infrastructure is to be kept in good shape.

Furthermore, the report states that citizens tend to be ‘less aware of the value that water and waste projects can provide’ in comparison to other areas of infrastructure, such as transport.

Rail and road investments were cited as leading infrastructure concerns, whilst ‘hidden’ systems such as waste collection, treatment, recycling and sewers tend to be undervalued by citizens and business executives alike.

This disparity, the report suggests, poses a problem for policy makers when it comes to securing funding and investment in these sectors.  

FCC recommended that reinforcing citizens’ sense of ownership over their infrastructure and service provisions would encourage public engagement when it comes to matters of funding and resource allocation.

Furthermore, increased transparency around government spending was said to be ‘essential’ in order to gain the trust and support of the public when allocating funding.

Demonstrating the value of waste management

Kristian Dales, FCC Environment’s sales and marketing director, commented: “The waste management industry needs to get better at demonstrating its value to the public in order to take its rightful place alongside major utilities and infrastructure such as water and transport. The general public might think we only empty their bins but we do so much more including generating energy and recovering materials for reprocessing from waste.

“It’s encouraging that policy makers see the value of waste management infrastructure. What the industry needs is this to be recognised with consistent legislation and policy from the Government to encourage the investment that the report highlights will be needed in the next five years.”

Dales added: “Our industry should take advantage of any new technology opportunities that enable us to communicate more effectively with service users. Encouragingly, there have already been developments in the sector including bins with sensors which can tell when they are full and send alerts to be emptied as well as apps to report instances of fly-tipping and provide information on local recycling services.”

Read FCC’s ‘Urban infrastructure insights 2015’

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