APRU’s new collaboration to tackle challenges for sustainable waste management
▲Prof. Yong Sik Ok, Sustainable Waste Management Program Lead
Korea University and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) have launched a new program for the development of sustainable waste management strategies, paving the way for new state-of-the-art treatment technologies and advanced management strategies pertaining to the recycling and recovery of organic waste.
Sustainable waste management has become one of the most pressing issues of our time, as conventional practices are imposing increasingly critical burdens, such as the degradation of precious land resources and the acceleration of global warming, on the environment.
Inappropriate handling of agricultural waste, such as manure and fertilizer run-off from fields, not only causes environmental issues but also constitutes a loss of the valuable nutrients and energy the run-off contains. The sharply increasing amounts of industrial sewage and sludge also pose daunting challenges.
Among the many promising approaches to address such issues are the “more from less” paradigm, globally efficient food production (GEFP), and the perfection of biochar and compost production and application.
The Sustainable Waste Management program is led by Professor Yong Sik Ok, director of the Korea Biochar Research Center based in the Division of Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering at Korea University, and will be supported by two co-chairs, William Mitch, full professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, and David Wardle, Smithsonian Professor of Forest Ecology at the Asian School of the Environment, the Nanyang Technology University in Singapore.
Waste management on land and the seas has become a major regional as well as global challenge. The launch of the APRU Sustainable Waste Management program is seen as a platform that will offer future opportunities for collaborative and multidisciplinary projects involving experts as part of APRU’s Sustainable Cities and Landscapes agenda.
“Our new program will provide a platform for the sharing of current scientific and technical knowledge, identify limitations and prioritize key challenges, and review existing international policies, agreements, and frameworks” said Prof. Ok, whose academic background covers waste management, bioavailability of emerging contaminants, bioenergy, and value-added products, including biochar.
“Indeed, it offers a timely opportunity for knowledge exchange among professionals from all over the world and will actively feed into ongoing policy discourse in the region,” he added.
The Sustainable Waste Management program focuses on recycling and recovery of waste material, while paving the way towards soil remediation, land remediation and ground water remediation with water and wastewater treatments.
The program’s structure comprises seven main pillars: food/organic waste recycling and biomass valorization, agricultural waste processing and recycling, biochar/compost production and application, waterworks/sewage/industrial sludge treatment and recycling, life cycle assessment and cost-benefit analysis on biological waste management, soil and land remediation, and groundwater remediation.
APRU member universities are the California Institute of Technology, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Korea University, Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, National Taiwan University, Stanford University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, University of Auckland, University of British Columbia, University of Hong Kong, University of Sydney, Tsinghua University, University of California, Berkeley, UNSW Sydney, and Yonsei University.
In addition, the program will include non-APRU universities, industry, and professional organizations.
“The Sustainable Waste Management program will assist the formulation of an efficient management agenda that not only satisfies the environmental compatibility but also financial feasibility and social needs,” said Prof. Ok.