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University of the West of Scotland Sustainable Development

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A Definition: Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own

HM Government, Sustainable Development: The UK Strategy, HMSO

ISBN 0-10-124262-X

The UK Government’s Strategy for sustainable development has four main aims. These are:
 social progress which recognises the needs of everyone;
 effective protection of the environment;
 prudent use of natural resources; and
 maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.
For the UK, priorities for the future are:
 more investment in people and equipment for a competitive economy;
 reducing the level of social exclusion;
 promoting a transport system which provides choice, and also minimises environmental
harm and reduces congestion;
 improving the larger towns and cities to make them better places to live and work;
 directing development and promoting agricultural practices to protect and enhance the
countryside and wildlife;
 improving energy efficiency and tackling waste;
 working with others to achieve sustainable development internationally.

University of the West of Scotland Sustainable Development
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A Sustainable Framework

1. To Minimise the amount of waste produced

2. To make best use of the waste which is produced

3. To minimise the pollution from waste

The hierarchy of waste management options can be defined:

- Reduction

- Reuse

- Recovery

i) material recycling

ii) composting

iii) energy recovery

- Disposal

Waste Management Paper 26B (Landfill Design, Construction and Operational Practice)
sets out that future landfills are to be sustainable!

‘Sustainable’ with regard to landfills is taken to mean that this generation will not leave problems
for future generations. This implies a timescale of 30 - 50 years during which the landfill should be
managed so as to optimise the bioreactor process. At the end of the 30-50 year timescale the
landfill may be releasing gases and leachate into the environment but these will be released at an
acceptable rate. The acceptable rate is the rate which can be safely returned to the environment.
It is dependent upon the quality and rate of the release and is determined using risk assessment.


Waste Management Paper 26B (Landfill Design, Construction and Operational Practice),
Department of the Environment, HMSO,
ISBN 0-11-753185-5
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MPG6 (Mineral Planning Guideline 6) gives the objectives of sustainable development for
minerals planning as:

a) to conserve minerals as far as possible, whilst ensuring an adequate supply to meet the
needs of society for minerals;

b) to minimise the production of waste and to encourage efficient use of materials, including
appropriate use of high quality materials, and recycling of waste;

c) to encourage sensitive working practices during minerals extraction and to preserve or

enhance the overall quality of the environment once extraction has ceased; and

d) to protect areas of designated landscape or nature conservation from development, other

than in exceptional circumstances where it has been demonstrated that development is in
the public interest.


The Scottish Office Environment Department, National Planning Policy Guideline, NPPG 4,
Land For Mineral Working, April 1994,
ISSN 1350-6153, ISBN 0 7480 0897 7

The Department of the Environment, Mineral Planning Guidance: Guidelines for

Aggregates Provision in England, MPG6, HMSO
ISBN 0-11-752986-9
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The Sceptical Environmentalist

Environmentalists tend to believe that, ecologically speaking, things are getting worse and
worse. Bjorn Lomborg, once deep green himself, argues that they are wrong in almost
every particular.

These environmentalists, led by such veterans as Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, and Lester
Brown of the Worldwatch Institute, have developed a sort of “litany” of four big environmental
• Natural resources are running out.
• The population is ever growing, leaving less and less to eat.
• Species are becoming extinct in vast numbers: forests are disappearing and fish stocks are
• The planet's air and water are becoming ever more polluted.
University of the West of Scotland Sustainable Development
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The price of life (source: T. Tengs et al, Risk Analysis, Cost of saving one year of on
June 1995 person’s life (1993$)

Passing laws to make seat belts mandatory 69

Sickle-cell anaemia screening for black new-borns 240
Mammography for women aged 50 810
Pneumonia vaccination for people over 65 2,000
Giving advice on stopping smoking to people who smoke 8,800
more than one packet a day
Putting men aged 30 on a low cholesterol diet 18,000
Regular leisure-time physical activity, such as jogging for 38,000
men aged 35
Making pedestrians and cyclists more visible 73,000
Installing air bags (rather than manual lap belts) in cars 120,000
Installing arsenic emission control at glass manufacturing 51,000,000
Setting radiation emission standards for nuclear power 180,000,000
Installing benzene emission control at rubber-tyre 20,000,000,000
manufacturing plants

Why is the perception that things are getting worse when in fact they may not be?

Bjorn Lomborg suggests several reasons for this:

 One is the lopsidedness built into scientific research. Research money goes to areas
where there are many problems and the problems are perceived to be big. Therefore, it is
in the interest of researchers to “exaggerate”. The next time you here about some startling
finding notice how the researcher involved when asked what can we do will say “What we
need is more research to study this problem”.
 Environmental groups need to be noticed by the mass media. One way of doing this is to
raise the awareness of environmental problems and talking of environmental successes
does not do this.
 Bad news sells more newspapers, television and internet space than good news.
 People tend to have a poor perception of the global situation. For example, if you life
somewhere that has bad air pollution you will tend to believe that this is true throughout the
world. The graph above suggests that, for London at least, things are betting better from
and air pollution point of view.
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Here is another discussion of Sustainability taken from the Web site of a group that would
be considered deeply green:


1. Use materials in continuous cycles.

2. Use continuously reliable sources of energy.

3. Come mainly from the qualities of being human (i.e. creativity, communication,
coordination, appreciation, and spiritual and intellectual development.)


4. Require continual inputs of non-renewable resources.

5. Use renewable resources faster than their rate of renewal.

6. Cause cumulative degradation of the environment.

7. Require resources in quantities that undermine other people's well-being.

8. Lead to the extinction of other life forms.

The above is taken from:

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A statement from Nokia

Sustainability and Eco-Efficiency

Sustainable development
Because we are committed to the ideal of sustainable development, we signed the
International Chamber of Commerce Business Charter in 1991. We are actively pursuing
sustainability by:
 Integrating environmental activities into business operations.
 Being open in our communications - both internally and externally.
 Co-operating in environmental issues within the company itself and with our external
Sustainability is all about growth without exhausting the natural resources that future
generations may need. The problem is tackled in two ways:
 Dematerialization - an environmental term which means that fewer materials are
needed to create better products. Mobile phone manufacture is a good example of
this: years ago, a portable phone that may have weighed 15 kilograms delivered an
indifferent talk-only service. Today, mobiles weighing just less than 200 grams can
provide a variety of high-speed, high-quality digital services including voice, text
messages, fax and the Internet.

 Immaterialization - a term used to describe how technology can supplant the need
for physical products by replacing them with services. For example, downloading a
video over the Internet can save a journey to the video shop. Equally, network
services can dispense with the need for a telephone answering machine.

Producing more from less

Eco-efficiency is all about producing better results from less in terms of materials and energy.
Whilst this might sound a commonsense approach to product development and is without a doubt
good business practice it can have profound effects on the environment, too. World Business
Council for Sustainable Development has established seven eco-efficiency principles that govern
all the company's activities:
 Minimizing energy intensity
 Minimizing the material intensity of goods and services
 Extension of product durability
 Increasing the efficiency of processes
 Minimizing toxic dispersion
 Promoting recycling
 Maximizing the use of renewable resources
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A Definition: Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own

Sustainable development with regard to engineering

With regards to engineering you should consider the following to help you maximise the
“sustainability” of a ground engineering procedure or project. These are:

 The proposed solution should work,

 The solution should maximise the value as defined as function divided by cost,
 The solution should minimise resource use,
 The solution should consider changes that could occur in the future,
 The solution should consider demolition/disposal and future use of the site/project,
 The solution should minimise energy use during construction/manufacture,
 The solution should minimise energy use in the long term,
 The solution should make appropriate use of materials by using high quality virgin materials
only when necessary,
 The solution should attempt to utilise waste materials where possible,
 The solution should maximise social capital by promoting social inclusion, honesty, integrity
and avoiding corruption,
 The solution should protect the environment – especially important sites and areas,
 The solution should improve the natural and built environment
 The solution should minimise waste

In many cases there will be a conflict between different aspects of the above. For example one
solution might minimise resource use while another solution will minimise long term energy use.
In these cases we must use our judgement as engineers to find the “most sustainable” solution.