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Public-Private Solutions for Asia’s Waste Crisis

A girl searches for recyclable materials in a garbage dump with smelly gases rising around her. Mandalay City, Myanmar, February 2009 (Photo by Nyaung U courtesy UN Development Programme Global Photo Contest in China) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A girl searches for recyclable materials in a garbage dump with smelly gases rising around her. Mandalay City, Myanmar, February 2009 (Photo by Nyaung U courtesy UN Development Programme Global Photo Contest in China) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

MANILA, Philippines, August 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Public-private partnerships have an important role to play in improving solid waste management in Asia, according to lessons learned from a five-city project undertaken by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) over the past three years.

Bringing expertise from both private and public sectors to bear on a routinely neglected area of municipal service in Asia would be the most effective way of upgrading landfill design, remediation, construction, and operation, project leaders found.

The senior project leader, Andrew McIntyre, is an urban development specialist with 32 years of experience who leads ADB’s Future Cities Program. He works with Asian cities over the long term, by facilitating cross-sectoral knowledge and financing partners, broadening project pipelines and ensuring integrated results.

“Asia’s cities are the engines of incredible economic growth. For many countries, they generate over 80 percent of GDP and improve the lives of millions of people. But this prosperity comes with a price. Take for example the more than one million tons of solid waste that cities generate every day as they grow,” says McIntyre in a report ‘Improving Waste Management: Solutions from Five Asian Cities’ on the project written for the bank.

“Without proper management, the deluge of solid waste causes severe pollution, helps diseases spread, and generates greenhouse gas emissions. It can also exacerbate urban flooding, which can endanger lives and compromise livelihoods particularly for the poor and marginalized,” he says.

Yet in spite of these risks, waste management has been a low priority for most Asian cities, while more attention is given to transport, water, and health services.

McIntyre says that “urban solid waste management interventions can no longer be piecemeal or underfunded” if the world is to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12, one target of which is to reduce waste generation by 2030, and ensure sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

During the three-year project five cities in Asia received technical assistance from the bank’s project team on mainstreaming solid waste management.

The $1.4 million project worked with local authorities in Mandalay in Myanmar, Quezon City and Sorsogon in the Philippines, and Buriram and Mahasarakham in Thailand.

Key assistance was a review and upgrade of municipal 10-year plans for solid waste management plus one tailored project per city.

Issues covered were waste avoidance, minimization, and recycling; waste haulage and disposal; and information, education, and communication campaigns to help avoid and minimize waste and encourage reuse and recycling.

Lack of funds and technical skills to develop and implement environmentally sound methods of waste management is the main constraint in municipal solid waste management, McIntyre concludes. He says private sector participation that can infuse funds, technical skills and operational efficiencies is a key prerequisite for addressing the problem.

In country presentations and workshops were held in each city to develop and confirm action plans and address policy reform issues. A final workshop was held in January 2017 in Bangkok.

Each of the five project cities has completely different issues that need unique solutions, but all involve both the public and the private sectors. Here, we focus on three of the project cities – two large and one small.

In Myanmar, once called Burma, the project team addressed waste generated by the six townships in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city with a population of over 1.7 million. ‘Mandalay City: Outsourcing Waste Collection Services‘.

Mandalay’s waste collection is supposed to be door-to-door, but large areas have only community bins and informal dumping areas.

The waste collection fleet is composed of compactor vehicles, tipping vehicles, hook lift bins with both covered and uncovered containers, small tricycle collection vehicles, and push carts.

The city’s two landfill sites are operated as uncontrolled dumps and are in urgent need of changes to avoid generating landfill leachate, the bank project team found.

“Staff appear to lack skills required for improving the operation. For example, both sites have extensive areas of uncovered waste placed at very flat slopes, thereby maximizing leachate generation and associated hazards. Leachate was observed flowing off the southern dumpsite onto neighboring properties in dry weather,” the project team reports.

“Overall, the sites are poorly run, and fundamental operational and design errors are compounded by budget limitations, which impacts on availability of suitable equipment and material. Examples include an adequate supply of soil cover for daily, intermediate, and final cover application,” writes the team.

After consulting stakeholders, the project team and the Mandalay city government developed and agreed on an enhanced 10-year integrated solid waste management plan.

Due to strong interest from city, the project team conducted a pre-feasibility study on privatizing waste collection in Chan Aye Thar Zan, the main business district of downtown Mandalay. It is home to the city’s biggest shopping center, the Zegyo Market, and most international standard hotels

The study looked at a privatized fleet of compactors that collect waste door-to-door or from bins. It would be fully mechanized and efficient. The private operator could be contracted to provide the staff and technology, but could also be contracted to supply the collection equipment if a longer contract term was awarded.

Quezon City, with three million people, is the largest city in Metro Manila, the National Capital Region of the Philippines. It is the site of many government offices, including the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Philippine Congress, yet the municipality does not have a financially sustainable waste collection system.

Reasons for this state of affairs relate to fees for waste management and the length of time private waste collection companies can be contracted to operate the service.

Contracts are limited to one year due to restrictions in the national procurement law. So, private operators are not guaranteed a payback period for modernizing equipment, and there is limited incentive for investing in specialist compactor vehicles and a modern processing plant.

Quezon City is not collecting garbage management fees due to a legal issue on how waste management fees are calculated. Even though local government units in the Philippines have budget allocations for solid waste management, the cost of collection is often higher.

One solution is to provide more incentives to private companies to invest in solid waste management by extending contracts to a term of seven to 10 years or longer. Then private companies could schedule repayment of purchase costs for specialized equipment, but this would require changes to the country’s procurement laws.

As it is, residual waste is hauled to the Payatas dumpsite, which was converted into a controlled landfill 15 years ago. About five years ago, a lined landfill was established on the site. The site is operated and maintained by a private contractor and has more than five years of life remaining with just the current landholdings. But time and landfill space are running out.

The Payatas landfill development in Quezon City, Philippines, (Photo by Lyndsay Chapple courtesy Asian Development Bank) Posted for media use.

The Payatas landfill development in Quezon City, Philippines, (Photo by Lyndsay Chapple courtesy Asian Development Bank) Posted for media use.

The project team and the Quezon City government designed and agreed on an enhanced 10-year integrated solid waste management plan and a pre-feasibility study was conducted on setting up a waste-to-energy facility with a modular waste capacity of 1,000 tons a day using a stoker-type incinerator.

In Thailand, the project team worked with municipal officials in a small city of 28,000 people in the northeastern part of the country called Buriram, which literally means city of happiness.

They conducted a pre-feasibility study on whether refuse derived fuels could provide a possible method for diverting waste from the landfill. The waste would be separated and prepared to quality specifications, then transported and sold to cement kiln owners who might buy it as a coal substitute for the heating process.

Many small to medium domestic companies had already approached Buriram municipal officers promoting waste-to-energy plants, and in particular, refuse derived fuels. Municipal officers expressed high optimism for refuse derived fuels as a solution to the issue of ever-increasing quantities of solid waste going to landfill.

But the base case model showed a significant negative return on investment.

The bank project team concluded that such projects may not be viable in small cities in northeast Thailand due to small waste quantities and high transport costs.

A suggested solution is a public-private partnership that would take in funds from a subsidy to the refuse derived fuels developer through direct Buriram municipality tipping fees and/or central government capital subsidies.

Using lessons learned from the five-city project, the ADB is moving to help other Asian cities deal with their overflowing landfills in a clean, modern way.

In Vietnam in July, the bank and the Da Nang City People’s Committee signed a transaction advisory services agreement to develop a new landfill and waste treatment facility.

Da Nang, a rapidly growing industrial and tourism hub in central Vietnam with a population of over a million, collects about 700-750 tons of solid waste a day. Waste is disposed of in the city’s existing landfill, but the remaining capacity will be fully utilized by 2020.

The project will use a public-private partnership plan. The private sector will design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the waste disposal and treatment facilities that meet the city’s requirements beyond 2020 by applying modern technologies for treating waste.

The concession period and the technologies to be used will be determined based on a feasibility study.

“ADB has been a key development partner to Da Nang City,” said Norio Saito, ADB deputy country director in Vietnam. “This transaction advisory support to Da Nang for the solid waste treatment facility will complement the work we are doing in the urban sector in Vietnam, and create a template for delivering waste treatment solutions via public-private partnerships for other cities across the country.”

In the last analysis, whatever the circumstances, better solid waste management means investing more funds and increasing cooperation between the public and private sectors.

“Over the next decade, along with energy and transport infrastructure, we need to invest more in integrated solid waste management processes and facilities,” says McIntyre. “If we don’t, making developing Asia’s cities livable in the future will be nothing more than a pipe dream.”


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E-Waste Piles Proliferate in Asia

E-Waste Piles Proliferate in Asia

Creative reuse of Used PCBs, Agbogbloshie , February 28, 2014 (Photo by Fairphone) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

TOKYO, Japan, January 26, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The volume of discarded electronics in East Asia and Southeast Asia rose nearly two-thirds between 2010 and 2015, and e-waste generation is growing fast both in total volume and per person measures, new United Nations research shows.

The study shows that rising e-waste quantities are even outpacing population growth.

Driven by rising incomes and high demand for new devices and appliances, the average increase in e-waste across all 12 countries and areas analyzed was 63 percent in the five years ending in 2015.

The e-waste totaled 12.3 million tonnes, a weight 2.4 times that of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

These calculations are drawn from the first-ever Regional E-waste Monitor: East and Southeast Asia compiled by the UN’s think tank, the United Nations University and funded by Japan’s Ministry of Environment.

To conserve resources and avoid serious health and environmental problems, the report urges a crackdown on improper recycling and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment, which includes anything with a battery or a cord.

The countries and other jurisdictions covered by the report are: Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

China alone more than doubled its generation of e-waste between 2010 and 2015 to 6.7 million tonnes, up 107 percent.

For many countries that already lack infrastructure for environmentally sound e-waste management, the increasing volumes are a cause for concern,” says co-author Ruediger Kuehr of UN University.

Increasing the burden on existing waste collection and treatment systems results in flows towards environmentally unsound recycling and disposal,” he warned.

Regionally, the average amount of e-waste generated by each person was about 10 kg in 2015, with the highest generation found in Hong Kong (21.7 kg per person), followed by Singapore (19.95 kg) and Taiwan (19.13 kg).

There were large differences between nations, with Cambodia at 1.10 kg per person, Vietnam, with 1.34 kg, and the Philippines at 1.35 kg per person being the lowest e-waste generators in 2015.

The report cites four main trends responsible for the increasing volumes of electronic waste:

•             More devices: Innovation in technology is driving the introduction of new products, particularly portable electronics, such as tablets, and wearables like smart watches.

•             More consumers: In the East and Southeast Asian region, there are industrializing countries with growing populations, and also rapidly expanding middle classes able to afford more devices.

•             Decreasing usage window: The usage time of devices is getting shorter as rapidly advancing technologies make older products obsolete – for instance flash drives have replaced floppy disks.

Software requirements also play a role in decreased usage time. For instance, there are minimum requirements for computers to run operating software and other applications, and there are “soft factors” such as product fashion, the report states.

As more devices are replaced more rapidly, piles of e-waste grow.

•             Imports: Import of electrical and electronic equipment provides greater availability of products, both new and second-hand, which also increases the e-waste that arises as the devices reach their end of life.

The report warns of improper and illegal e-waste dumping prevalent in most countries in the study, regardless of national e-waste legislation.

Consumers, dismantlers and recyclers are often guilty of illegal dumping, particularly of “open dumping“, where non- functional parts and residues from dismantling and treatment operations are released into the environment, the report points out.

The main reasons for illegal dumping are: lack of awareness, lack of incentives, lack of convenience, the absence of suitable hazardous waste disposal sites, weak governance, and lax enforcement of whatever laws do exist.

The report points to common practices such as open burning, which can cause acute and chronic ill-effects on public health and the environment.

Open burning of e-waste is practiced by informal recyclers when segregating organic and inorganic compounds. For example, they may burn cables to recover the valuable copper.

Though less common, spontaneous combustion can occur at open dumping sites when components such as batteries trigger fires due to short circuits.

Informal recycling, called “backyard recycling,” is a challenge for most developing countries in the region, with a large and growing number of entrepreneurs conducting unlicensed and illegal recycling practices from backyards.

These processes are not only hazardous for the recyclers, their communities and the environment, but they are also inefficient, as they are unable to extract the full value of the processed products, the report points out.

These recyclers recover gold, silver, palladium and copper from printed circuit boards and wires, using solvents such as sulphuric acid for hazardous wet chemical leaching processes, or acid baths, which release toxic fumes.

Open burning and acid bath recycling in the informal sector have serious negative impacts on processers’ occupational health,” co-author Shunichi Honda warns. “In the absence of protective materials such as gloves, glasses, masks, etc., inhalation of and exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances directly affect workers’ health.

Associations have been reported between exposure from improper treatment of e-waste and altered thyroid function, reduced lung function, negative birth outcomes, reduced childhood growth, negative mental health outcomes, impaired cognitive development, cytotoxicity and genotoxicity,” explains Honda.

Indirect exposure to these hazardous substances is also a cause of many health problems, particularly for families of informal recyclers who often live and work in the same location, as well as for communities living in and around the area of informal recycling sites.

The report gives top marks to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. These three jurisdictions have a head-start in the region in establishing e-waste collection and recycling systems. They began to adopt and enforce e-waste specific laws in the late 1990s.

Among the most advanced economies and areas in the region, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are also characterized by high per capita e-waste generation, formal collection and recycling infrastructure and relatively strong enforcement.

Hong Kong and Singapore do not have specific e-waste legislation. Instead, these governments collaborate with producers to manage e-waste through public-private partnerships.

As small jurisdictions with large shipping and trade networks, Hong Kong and Singapore must cope with major transboundary movements of e-waste generated domestically, as well as e-waste in transit from other countries.

China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam all have recent e-waste legislation. These four countries are in a transitionphase, with a mix of formal and informal elements in an evolving ecosystem in terms of collection and recycling infrastructure.

Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand have yet to establish legal frameworks for e-waste management. There is an active informal sector in these countries with an established network for collection and import of end-of-life products and their recycling, repair, refurbishment and parts harvesting.

Asia, including the 12 nations and jurisdictions in this new study, is the world’s largest consumer of electrical and electronic equipment, buying nearly half of all such equipment on the market, amounting to 20.62 million tonnes in 2005; and 26.69 million tonnes in 2012.

The increase is striking given the drop in sales of electrical and electronic equipment in Europe and the Americas in 2012 following the global financial crisis.

e-wasteHongKong

A tracking device inside an old printer led investigators from the Seattle-based nonprofit Basel Action Network to this e-waste scrapyard in rural Hong Kong, June 22, 2016. (Photo by Katie Campbell, KCTS/EarthFix) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Closing the Loop: EU Quarrels Over Circular Economy Plan

MEPs2015

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 30, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Commission has adopted a new Circular Economy Package it says will help European businesses and consumers contribute to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use.

But Members of the European Parliament are critical of the new package.

The Commission says its plan will extract the maximum value and use from all raw materials, products and waste, encouraging energy savings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bringing benefits to Europe’s environment and economy.

The changes are needed, the Commission says, because global competition for resources is increasing. The concentration of resources outside the EU, particularly critical raw materials, makes industry and society within the 28 Member States dependent on imports and vulnerable to high prices, market volatility, and the political situation in supplying countries.

The new Circular Economy Package sets a common EU target for recycling 65 percent of municipal waste and 75 percent of packaging waste by 2030.

The plan calls for a binding target to reduce landfill to a maximum of 10 percent, with a complete ban on landfill for separately collected waste.

There will be economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment as well as vehicles, among other products.

There are also plans to harmonize the way recycling rates are calculated across the Member States.

The proposals require action at all stages of the life cycle of products – from the extraction of raw materials, through material and product design, the production, distribution and consumption of goods, repair, re-manufacturing and re-use schemes, all the way through to waste management and recycling.

All these stages are linked. For instance, use of certain hazardous substances in the production of products can affect their recycling potential, and improvements in terms of resource and energy efficiency can be made at all stages.

In July 2014, under President Jose Barroso, the Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package that included a proposal for the review of waste legislation in response to the legal obligation to review the targets of three Directives: the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive, and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Then, on November 1, 2014, a new Commission took office under President Jean-Claude Juncker. In its 2015 Work Programme, the Juncker Commission announced its intention to withdraw the 2014 proposal on Waste Review and to replace it with a new, more ambitious proposal to promote the circular economy by the end of 2015.

Two main reasons motivated this withdrawal.

First, the overall approach presented in July 2014 had an exclusive focus on waste management, without exploring synergies with other policies such as the development of markets for secondary raw materials.

Second, the Juncker Commission wanted to make the proposal more country specific and improve the implementation of waste policy, particularly existing problems of non-compliance.

On December 2, the Juncker Commission presented its new Circular Economy Package to the European Parliament.

The new initiative would establish a framework to overcome past shortcomings and create conditions for the development of a circular economy “with a clear and ambitious political vision combined with effective policy tools that can drive real change on the ground,” the Juncker Commission said.

The Commission said its new package “contributes to broad political priorities by tackling climate change and the environment while boosting job creation, economic growth, investment and social fairness.”

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The package was prepared by a core project team co-chaired by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, with the close involvement of Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella and Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska.

Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “Our planet and our economy cannot survive if we continue with the ‘take, make, use and throw away’ approach. We need to retain precious resources and fully exploit all the economic value within them.”

“The circular economy is about reducing waste and protecting the environment, but it is also about a profound transformation of the way our entire economy works,” Timmermans said. “By rethinking the way we produce, work and buy we can generate new opportunities and create new jobs. With today’s package, we are delivering the comprehensive framework that will truly enable this change to happen.”

“It sets a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe with supportive actions that cover the full product cycle. This mix of smart regulation and incentives at EU level will help businesses and consumers, as well as national and local authorities, to drive this transformation,” said Timmermans.

Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “These proposals give a positive signal to those waiting to invest in the circular economy. Today we are saying that Europe is the best place to grow a sustainable and environmentally-friendly business.”

“This transition towards a more circular economy is about reshaping the market economy and improving our competitiveness,” said Katainen, a former Finnish prime minister. “If we can be more resource efficient and reduce our dependency on scarce raw materials, we can develop a competitive edge. The job creation potential of the circular economy is huge, and the demand for better, more efficient products and services is booming.”

The Juncker Commission is in partnership with the European Investment Bank to fund the new package.

On December 10, Vella blogged that the partners signed an amendment to the InnovFin Delegation Agreement “that will enable higher-risk, yet innovative sustainable business models and plans to access credit through InnovFin – an EU finance support programme under Horizon 2020.”

Funding of over €650 million under Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion under the structural funds will suppport the new Circular Economy Package, the Commission said.

“The proposals are a powerful enabling framework, but we will also need substantial private sector funding directed towards the circular economy,” wrote Vella. “The European Fund for Strategic Investment (the ‘Juncker Plan’) is one tool to support this. The Commission would like to also guide future investment, steering it more towards green choices, with progressive divestment from unsustainable activities.”

Vella wrote that the EIB, the Commission and national banks plan to work together to increase awareness of circular economy financing.

But many Members of the European Parliament are not impressed with the new package.

The 65 percent target is a point of contention. Although the Juncker Commission says the new package is far more ambitious than its predecessor, MEPs point out that Barroso’s team wanted to introduce a 70 percent target in 2014.

Karl-Heinz Florenz, a German Member of the European Parliament who sits with the European People’s Party group, told the “Parliament Magazine” that the new proposal amounts to “much ado about nothing.”

Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Vice-Chair Kathleen Van Brempt of Belgium said, “This ambitious roadmap needs to be supported by specific targets, and our political group will try to build a consensus in the Parliament to introduce those targets, to make sure the roadmap is accomplished.”

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, shadow rapporteur on the circular economy with the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, accused the Commission of, “wasting months of work and many hours of parliamentary time.”

“With a weakened waste proposal and an action plan copy-pasted from the 2010 roadmap to a resource efficient Europe, it’s clear the European Commission is failing to deliver on this important agenda for growth and jobs,” the Dutch MEP told the “Parliament Magazine.”

Greens/European Free Alliance Group Vice-Chair Bas Eickhout commented, “While we welcome the fact that the Commission has finally come forward with revised proposals on the circular economy, we are concerned that the plans are undermined by the reduced ambition. This is contrary to the commitment by the Commission for a more ambitious proposal.”

“A year on from the initial decision by the Commission to withdraw its original proposals, we have lost both time and ambition in the push to stimulate the circular economy at EU level,” said Eickhout.

Green environment spokesperson Davor Škrlec said, “It is a major shame that the Commission is not seeking to maximize the potential of the circular economy. We will seek to address some of the shortcomings in Parliament.”

Responding to criticism of the new package, Vice President Timmermans pointed out that the legally-binding 10 percent cap on land-filling was, “completely new” and that the 65 percent target for recyclables was, “an extremely ambitious goal, which for many member states will require a huge effort.”

Key actions under the Juncker Commission’s new Circular Economy Package include:

  • Funding of over €650 million under Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion under the structural funds;
  • Actions to reduce food waste, including a common measurement methodology, improved date marking, and tools to meet the global Sustainable Development Goal to halve food waste by 2030;
  • Development of quality standards for secondary raw materials to increase the confidence of operators in the single market;
  • Measures in the Ecodesign working plan for 2015-2017 to promote reparability, durability and recyclability of products, in addition to energy efficiency;
  • A revised regulation on fertilizers, to facilitate the recognition of organic and waste-based fertilizers in the single market and support the role of bio-nutrients;
  • A strategy on plastics in the circular economy, addressing issues of recyclability, biodegradability, the presence of hazardous substances in plastics, and the Sustainable Development Goals target for reducing marine litter;
  • A series of actions on water reuse, including a legislative proposal on minimum requirements for the reuse of wastewater.
  • A clear timeline for the actions proposed and a plan for a simple and effective monitoring framework for the circular economy.

Vice President Katainen said, “We will remove barriers that make it difficult for businesses to optimize their resource use and we will boost the internal market for secondary raw materials. We want to achieve real progress on the ground and look forward to delivering on this ambition together with not only Member States, regions and municipalities, but also businesses, industry and civil society.”

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Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main image: Members of the European Parliament in plenary session, 2015. (Photo courtesy European Parliament) © European Union 2015 – European Parliament.
Featured image: Naples, Italy struggles with longstanding garbage problems, June 2007 (Photo by Chris Beckett) under Creative Commons license via Flickr
Image 01: EU Vice-President Jyrki Katainen addresses the European Parliament, January 2015 © European Union 2015 – European Parliament. (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Creative Commons licenses creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Image 02: Landfill at the Selly Oak Battery Park redevelopment site in Birmingham, England, May 2015 (Photo by Elliott Brown) under Creative Commons license via Flickr