Salim Vohra
Waste vs the community

publication: article

Waste vs the community

Environment Business

Everybody needs good neighbours, and in the eyes of most, the Ramsay Street idyll does not include a waste facility. Siting, planning and operating these facilities in most areas is guaranteed to generate community concern. Health, the local environment and quality of life are issues which come up time and again when communities speak out. Planning processes for siting or extending waste facilities can become a battleground. Communities can feel marginalised and unheard as waste planners, regulators and operators are perceived to rush through what is seen as the best waste management option.

How best then to deal with such community concerns? What approaches and strategies can be used? The two approaches that tend to be used are community consultation and public relations strategies. However, no two communities are identical, and so any form of mechanical community consultation and public relations are almost bound to fail. These don’t address the key difficulties of diverse communities or understand that what works for one community will not necessarily work for another.

Authorities are better equipped to focus on the ‘hard’ scientific and technical facts, and so often fail to address the complexities of individual areas. The ‘soft’ value issues about fairness, transparency and trust that communities raise during waste facility siting and planning processes are often left unanswered.