Memoirs of the 6th Symposium for CONACYT Scholars in Europe

Michelle Uriarte Ruiz

The sixth edition of the Symposium for CONACYT (Mexico’s entity in charge of the promotion of scientific and technological activities) Scholars in Europe was organized and hosted by the European Parliament and CONACYT on 29, 30 and 31 of March of 2017 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France; with the participation of over 130 scholars from 13 European countries.

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This symposium aims to gather Mexican scholars throughout Europe to discuss, share and collaborate on their research topics, there were roundtables and seminars given by the scholars in 9 main different topics proposed by the Scientific Committee. I was lucky enough to present my dissertation topic in the roundtable of Climate Change and Energy, the title of my presentation was “The Social and Environmental Impacts of Waste Management in Mexico City”

I explained how Mexico City has expanded in the last decades from a rural to an urban area with an ever increasing population (20 million people in the metropolitan zone), even though Mexico was the first Latin American country to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 and became one of the world pioneers in Climate Change Regulations, the quality of life in Mexico City has been severely affected due to the greenhouse gas emissions. The lack of urban planning, increased population and climate change mitigation actions, has driven Mexico City to a tipping point, where is absolutely necessary to reconsider the urban planning, as well as short, medium and long measures of how to improve the citizens quality of life. With the improvement of the life quality and the population growth, the volume of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) has also increased, currently more than 13,000 tons of MSW are generated and the average generation per capita is 1.31 kilograms per day, which is higher than the global average of MSW. This has a great impact over the environment, only in 2010, 31 millions of CO2e emissions were emitted, and this would represent 5% of the total emissions of the country in that year. Fourteen per cent of these emissions came from the MWS management and disposal.

In order to avoid what many consider an environmental and social crisis, the government has looked for technological solutions. Waste to energy treatment seem to be the logical solution, but it is not the whole solution, the waste management problem in Mexico City is really complex, and all the social implications of this problem have to be explored, I compared what the UK has accomplished since the 90s in waste management which includes:

  • 45% of the MSW were recycled
  • The total MSW destined to landfill decreased by 71% (in comparison with the year 2000)
  • The volume of MSW destined to Waste to Energy was tripled (2.4 million tons in 2000 to 7.8 million ton)
  • Methane emissions were reduced by 61% (in comparison with 2002)
  • The Waste Management sector made profits of £18.7 billions
  • 10 TWh were generated in Waste to Energy

Finally I pointed out what were the lessons that Mexico could learn from the UK in waste management including landfill tax, emphasis in waste prevention, invest in research and community projects and creating a waste hierarchy focusing in waste reduction.

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My presentation was well received, and many people had questions in the topic, people that are from Mexico City pointed out that even if they are not studying something related to waste management or environmental issues in the city, they were aware of the impacts and wanted a solution, they liked the comparison between the UK and Mexico and were impressed of what the UK accomplished in such a short amount of time. Overall it was an amazing experience to be able to share my research and I was able to meet a lot of students that are also interested in Energy and Climate Change. M3

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