An Australian engineer examines hazardous waste management in disaster response.
The World Food Programme (WFP) moves vast quantities of food during international disasters and complex emergencies and operates a fleet of more than 800 trucks and 3600 passenger vehicles globally to support their work. In some countries they operate in, they have to run their own garages because vehicle servicing is not available.
This requires the management of a continuous stream of hazardous waste that includes vehicle batteries that contain acid and lead, used engine oil, tyres, used oil filters, brake fluid, and paints and solvents.
Engineering humanitarian agency RedR Australia sent environmental engineer Trish Morrow to spend a year with the WFP reviewing their environmental management policies and practices in these countries, providing training to field staff and recommending sustainable ways to implement more environmentally-friendly vehicle fleets.
“WFP has a fleet of over 70 trucks in South Sudan and wants to apply circular economy principles and develop innovative hazardous waste management strategies related to their vehicle servicing,” Morrow explained.
Her early research focused on waste management in Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, where WFP is providing support to populations affected by extreme poverty, conflict and insecurity, and natural disasters.
“My work with WFP mainly focuses on identifying risks and mitigating environmental impact where needed. The literature reviews and environmental assessment reports which I have been working on help to identify recycling opportunities or waste minimisation opportunities in the target countries,” she said.
Morrow has already provided the organisation with advice on how to avoid the generation of waste and maximise the reprocessing of substances and components in several of those countries.
Her work on each field mission has also included extensive awareness raising and training workshops for local staff to build their capacity to identify future risks.
Engineers who care
RedR Australia was established in 1992 by engineer Jeff Dobel. His vision was to deploy engineers to support disaster-affected communities during international crisis. It was established with support from four founding bodies: Engineers Australia, Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia, Consult Australia and Professionals Australia.
RedR provides skilled people and training to help communities rebuild and recover in times of crisis.
They build resilience in disaster-prone countries through disaster preparedness training activities and strategic collaboration with National Disaster Management Offices throughout the Asia Pacific.