RPS Health & Social Impact Director co-authors new World Health Organisation (WHO) report

03 Jun 2022

Our Health & Social Impact Director, Ryngan Pyper, has once again collaborated with WHO on its new report: Assessing the health impacts of waste management in the context of the circular economy.

His latest report focuses on the public health implications of transitioning to a Circular Economy (CE) in the waste sector.

Published yesterday, the new report covers the use of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) as a tool to support strategic and project-level decisions about waste management policy and infrastructure. The report presents six HIA case studies and a literature review, which point to potential wins for the CE and population health.

Ryngan outlines below the top questions and takeaways from the report. 

QWhat is the Circular Economy?

The Circular Economy (CE) is a concept of moving the use of resources from a linear model, of extract-use-discard, to a circular model, of reuse-recycle-recover. It reduces the use of new resources and minimises disposal. The waste management hierarchy is fundamental to CE delivery. In order of preference, it is: prevention of waste > re-use, recycle and energy recovery > disposal, if no other option.

QWhat is Health Impact Assessment?

Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a process used to systematically judge the potential and sometimes unintended effects of proposals on the health of a population, and the distribution of those effects within the population.

QWhat is the relationship between CE and health?

There are win-win synergies between the CE and health. Population health risks are lower further up the waste management hierarchy, and accrues wider benefits.

QWhat are the key takeaways from the report?

Through a literature review and six international case studies, we found:

  • The CE benefits to public health are not only environmental but also social, behavioural, economic, and institutional. These are ‘wider determinants of health’.
  • Benefits include a healthier, more productive society, through reduced direct hazards, skilled jobs, and new markets. These promote economic prosperity, an environment that promotes physical activity and mental wellbeing, and reduced healthcare demand.
  • This assumes the adoption of well-designed, operated and maintained modern waste management practices.
  • HIA can make a strong case for shifting up the waste management hierarchy, away from disposal.
  • The ability of HIA to influence the CE transition depends on taking a wider determinant of health approach, particularly where integrated forms of impact assessment are used.
  • Critically, strategic level HIA and decision-making need to create a policy context that limits the project level options to those that are high on the waste managing hierarchy, i.e. avoiding disposal.

This marks Ryngan’s second co-authored WHO report in the space of three months, following Learning from practice: case studies of health in SEA and EIA across the WHO European Region, which launched in March.

Senuri Mahamithawa is also a fellow RPS author on the report.  



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Ryngan Pyper

Health & Social Impact Director T: +44 131 561 1853 Email

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