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UN World Habitat Day 2019

Yesterday was the 2019 United Nations World Habitat Day, and the focus for this year was on promoting the use of innovative technologies for sustainable waste management. This ties in with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number 11: to have inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, "Solutions begin with small steps individuals can take to alter the way our cities function. We must reduce the amount of waste we produce, and, at the same time, start seeing it as a valuable resource that can be re-used and recycled, including for energy."

As part of the campaign, cities all over the world were invited to commit to uphold a set of principles, including assessing the quantity and type of waste produced in their city, improving local waste collection, ensuring cities are environmentally safe, and implementing waste-to-energy schemes.

Dealing with waste is very expensive for cities, and the UN notes that waste management is not being sufficiently financed. So-called "frontier technologies", however, can provide cost-effective answers to the problem of how to clean up cities. For example, automation and artificial intelligence can be used together to help sort recyclables more efficiently. Smart packaging is another potential tech solution, using sensors to help reduce the amount of food thrown away, and using new technologies which can turn organic waste into renewable energy and compost.

This implementation of technology also provides an opportunity for newer, rapidly-growing cities in developing countries to overtake older cities in environmental and waste management stakes by taking advantage of the latest solutions and avoiding more established, but less efficient methods.

Using these tools effectively, said the UN chief on Monday, can help us to build well-planned and smartly managed cities, which can steer us towards inclusive growth, and low-emission development.

8th October 2019