As global displacement hits record highs, a British design engineer has developed a mobile method to manage waste which is helping to reduce litter in refugee camps.

Design engineer, Andy Ive originally created the mobile recycling facility for the remotest desert locations of the Sahara, where makeshift camps sprang up around the oil and construction industry. Instructed to bury waste material in the sand, he invented a unit to minimise environmental impact. Conveniently housed in a standard shipping container, the cleverly designed facility is easily transported and fits almost anywhere.

Like those desert sites, refugee camps are often hastily constructed, ill equipped, have limited resources, and are damaging to the surrounding sensitive eco systems. Moreover, failure to recycle the vast quantities of waste being generated could be harmful both for the health of residents and their environment. Plastic water bottles are a sizeable waste stream in this type of site, and take up a lot of space unless the bottles are crushed.

Ive’s self-powered mobile recycling facility (MRF) turns waste plastic water bottles into reusable bricks and comes complete with the necessary equipment for segregation, compacting and recycling mixed waste at source.

Andy Ive explained: “Amid the plight of people struggling to survive in the wake of chaos, carnage and harrowing conditions, it makes practical and humanitarian sense to provide this simple infrastructure which can also restore some feeling of self-sufficiency and community in using the recycled bricks for temporary building.”

Ive is trying to urge governments, UN agencies and NGOs to utilise practical and economical solutions for effective humanitarian waste management in the camps. He believes adopting such mobile technology could immediately reduce the impact of poor sanitation and significantly improve living conditions in the camps as well as benefitting the environment in the longer term.

He says: “For decades there has been an overwhelming response to the more immediate threats of hunger and disease, with much less focus on the strain and long-term damage caused to fragile eco-systems too. With many millions of refugees, we are now failing to address the impact that inadequate waste management could have on health and the environment.”

Ive has partnered with the Disaster Management Centre at Bournemouth University to try to promote the importance of waste management and the use of practical, clean technologies in emergency situations to multiple agencies. He hopes to strengthen a more global and mainstream approach to the environmental impact of response and recovery to provide both environmental and humanitarian assistance.

Image: Andy Ives' materials recovery facility in a shipping container is helping to manage waste in temporary housing sites such as refugee camps.