Sustainable waste management in the UK: the public health role

R. Mohan, J. Spiby, Giovanni Leonardi, A. Robins, S. Jefferis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This paper discusses waste management in the UK and its relationship with health. It aims to outline the role of health professionals in the promotion of waste management, and argues for a change in their role in waste management regulation to help make the process more sustainable. The most common definition of sustainable development is that by the Brundtland commission, i.e. 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. Managing waste sites in a manner that minimises toxic impacts on the current and future generations is obviously a crucial part of this. Although the management of waste facilities is extremely complex, the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control regime, which requires the input of public health professionals on the regulation of such sites, means that all waste management installations should now be operating in a fashion that minimises any toxicological risks to human health. However, the impacts upon climate change, resource use and health inequalities, as well as the effects of waste transportation, are currently not considered to be part of public health professionals' responsibilities when dealing with these sites. There is also no requirement for public health professionals to become involved in waste management planning issues. The fact that public health professionals are not involved in any of these issues makes it unlikely that the potential impacts upon health are being considered fully, and even more unlikely that waste management will become more sustainable. This paper aims to show that by only considering direct toxicological impacts, public health professionals are not fully addressing all the health issues and are not contributing towards sustainability. There is a need for a change in the way that health professionals deal with waste management issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)908-914
Number of pages7
JournalPublic Health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Public health
  • Sustainable development
  • Waste management


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