When products and projects are developed, raw materials are extracted which contributes to degradation of the environment, problems of waste and Green House Gas emissions. Prudent design of products can contribute towards protection of the planet which is currently in peril.
This was said by Professor Paul Mativenga from the University of Manchester when presenting a paper during BIE conference titled; Engineers and the grand challenge of waste: Engineering the future. He said a current and future challenge and opportunity for engineers is to promote a sustainable world and to be innovators and agents of change in green economy.
He said processing natural resources efficiently and with little or no waste helps to preserve the earth’s finite natural resources. “We can further preserve resources by designing products and packaging for reuse and recycling, and we can protect resources through industrial processes and facilities that have minimal adverse environmental impacts throughout their full life-cycles.
The guru in sustainable engineering matters highlighted that whilst engineers play a crucial role in creating infrastructure in the world they can have a significant impact on progress toward sustainable development. “Engineers can contribute to sustainable development along the entire chain of modern production and consumption, which includes the following; extraction and development of natural resources, processing and modifying resources, designing and building transportation infrastructure meeting the needs of consumers, recovering and reusing resources, producing and distributing energy,” he said. He said Engineers can play an important role in sustainable development by planning and building projects that preserve natural resources are cost-efficient and support human and natural environments.
He cautioned that, for sustainable development to be possible, human activities will have to be redesigned to reuse raw materials and consumer products many times over. “And Engineers can assist in this process in several ways; by improving ways to recycle and reuse domestic waste, designing better solid waste collection and storage facilities, Improving methods to collect and reuse construction materials such as concrete and asphalt from roads, Improving treatment facilities for urban organic waste and human waste so that the treated fluids and solids may be used safely for agriculture and other purposes, recovering, reusing and remanufacturing byproducts from resource development and industrial processing environmental restoration. He said further, engineers can assist in restoring environments in several ways: treating and restoring old industrial waste sites, reclaiming old mine properties, treating polluted groundwater lakes and streams, restoring the ecology of lakes and wetlands as well as renewing aging urban areas in large cities.
In the sidelines of an interview with BIE reporter Florah Seboni, Mativenga indicated that SD was part of the engineering curriculum at the University of Manchester urging other institutions of higher learning to infuse this in their engineering courses. He cautioned that Sustainable Development is no longer a debate but a must to do in order to safeguard the earth’s natural resources.