Common to all disasters is the potential damage to the solid waste management systems and operations in place prior to the disaster. Such damage varies depending on the location of waste management sites, the plant and machinery relative to the disaster, or in the case of conflicts, the extent to which the waste management facilities have been damaged or used during the hostilities.
Typical impact on waste management systems and equipment includes damage caused by the collapse of waste management facilities or other buildings collapsing onto waste collection vehicles (for instance, due to an earthquake); inaccessible landfills due to damaged or blocked access roads; household or industrial waste collection bins being damaged or swept away, thereby reducing the ability of the affected community to store their waste safely for collection; or damage to mechanical equipment due to extended periods of flooding.
More importantly, disasters and conflicts can heavily impact the management of the solid waste operations because of the risk of death or serious harm amongst waste management staff and labourers, meaning that crucial waste management skills and knowledge can be lost. Retraining and recruiting waste management expertise can be an extended process, which can slow the recovery process of solid waste management operations.
Re-establishing access to fuel and spare parts during the post-disaster emergency and recovery phases can also hamper the rehabilitation of waste management operations. Additionally, competition over fuel resources can lead to scarcities in fuel supply and a spike in fuel prices.
Such negative impacts on waste management operations inhibit the rehabilitation of the waste management services, which in turn leads to increased public health risks from, for instance, uncontrolled dumping of wastes and improper handling of hazardous as well as infectious waste.