The United Nations designated the first Monday in every October as World Habitat Day. Each year, it features a new theme to focus global attention on the key contribution made by cities, towns and communities to sustainable urbanisation and to ensuring a better quality of life for all.
The theme for 2019 World Habitat Day is “Frontier Technologies as an innovative tool to transform Waste to Wealth”, which looks at ways that new technologies can turn waste into a resource. This builds on last year’s theme “Municipal Solid Waste Management” and continues UN-Habitat’s Waste Wise Cities campaign promoting sustainable waste management.
According to the World Economic and Social Survey 2018, frontier technologies hold immense potential to improve how people work and live, as well as to significantly accelerate efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address climate change. Frontier technologies, such as automation, robotics, electric vehicles, renewable energy technologies, biotechnologies and artificial intelligence, can possibly transform the social, economic and environmental spheres. They offer the potential of better, cheaper, faster, scalable and easy to use solutions for every-day problems, including waste management. They also present opportunities for developing countries to leapfrog towards less efficient technologies and implement social innovations. In line with these possibilities, the New Urban Agenda calls for enhanced cooperation and knowledge exchange on science, technology and innovation that will influence the development of current and future urban areas in the world.
During the 2019 World Habitat Day, UN-Habitat will advocate and raise awareness:
- To foster integrated waste management in the world’s cities as a step towards a circular economy;
- To support the development of data collection for Waste Wise Cities;
- To facilitate the monitoring of the waste value chain together with cities and municipalities;
- To see sustainable waste management as part of the solution to achieve less poverty (SDG 1), zero hunger (SDG 2), good health and well-being (SDG 3), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), responsible production and consumption (SDG 12), climate action (SDG 13), life below water (SDG 14) and partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17);
- To collect, review and highlight frontier technologies that can be used as innovative tools to transform waste to wealth.
Frontier technologies can enable city authorities to:
- Gather accurate data on the waste flows in their city, to understand who is producing, collecting, reusing, and recycling waste and where, giving them the chance to make more informed decisions;
- Determine the true costs of waste management and disposal including the hidden environmental and health costs;
- Support the planning and implementation for a circular economy, i.e. moving from a linear production and consumption model to a more circular one that benefits all;
- Improve operational efficiencies in service provision, including linking the informal and formal waste management sectors;
- Recover valuable resources in terms of recyclables, energy, water and demand management;
- Continuously innovate, pilot and seek solutions to improve their performance;
- Turn waste into wealth instead of environmental and social problems, thus supporting the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
While the Global Observance of World Habitat Day will be in Mexico City, celebrations will be held across the world. In 2018 over 80 cities, towns and communities marked the day. World Habitat Day was first celebrated in 1986 following a United Nations General Assembly resolution, the previous year.