About

For many cities the disposal and treatment of waste is a growing burden that is increasingly difficult to tackle. From 2000-2012, waste generated in cities approximately doubled, increasing from 680 million tonnes to 1.3 billion tonnes per year. As a result of population growth, urbanisation, and changing consumption patterns, waste is expected to nearly double again to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025.

The waste problem is most severe in urbanizing regions and developing countries, where collection and disposal services do not exist or cannot cope with increasing amounts of waste. As a result, waste is either disposed in open and uncontrolled dumpsites, or openly burned. These practices have deleterious impacts on public health, the environment, and the wellbeing of waste workers and nearby residents.

Waste is a significant source of short-lived climate pollutants. As the third largest man-made source of methane, waste contributes to climate change and ozone pollution. Open waste burning and the use of polluting collection vehicles emit black carbon, a key component of particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution. When unsustainably managed, waste is also a breeding ground for toxins and microbes that contaminate the air, soil, and water.

There are proven solutions to improve waste management practices that will reduce emissions from the sector and lead to cleaner, more sustainable cities. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Municipal Solid Waste Initiative works with a network of cities around the world to advance waste sector mitigation practices in three key areas:
 

  • Organic Waste Diversion: Minimizing the food waste sent to landfills to reduce methane generation and to avoid significant costs incurred by developing or expanding landfills to accommodate excess waste.
  • Landfill Gas Capture and Use: Capturing landfill gas to prevent methane from entering the atmosphere and contributing to local smog and global climate change.
  • Open Waste Burning Prevention: Promoting alternatives to open burning to reduce black carbon emissions and to prevent the release of cancer-causing compounds and other toxic substances.

Top facts

Up to 589 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions could be avoided by 2030 with full implementation of current landfill gas capture technology - an estimated 61% of sector emissions.
Up to 589 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions could be avoided by 2030 with full implementation of current landfill gas capture technology - an estimated 61% of sector emissions.
Globally, an estimated 40% of waste is openly burned, releasing harmful dioxins, furans, and black carbon into the atmosphere.
Globally, an estimated 40% of waste is openly burned, releasing harmful dioxins, furans, and black carbon into the atmosphere.
Globally, about one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to about 1.3 billion tonnes every year.
Globally, about one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to about 1.3 billion tonnes every year.

Factsheets

What we're doing

The Initiative brings together technical experts and policymakers from all levels of government to offer the following types of assistance :

  • Direct technical assistance for developing waste management master plans, waste assessments, and feasibility studies, and for identifying and promoting appropriate financing for waste projects
  • Indirect technical assistance through the creation of tools and resources that help cities and national governments track their emissions reductions, determine appropriate waste management solutions, and identify best practices
  • Information exchange and networking opportunities bring cities together to share best practices, highlight success stories, and encourage peer-to-peer learning and city mentoring
  • Training and capacity building sessions for city officials, waste management staff, and other stakeholders
  • A publicly available Knowledge Platform that compiles and organizes helpful resources such as case studies, guidance documents, and databases from partners and other organizations

Since the circumstances in each city are different, these activities are determined based on individual needs. These activities may cover:

  • Preventing and/or reducing waste generation
  • Strengthening policy planning
  • Scaling up individual city action to the national level
  • Banning open burning and open dumping
  • Diverting organic waste from landfills
  • Optimising waste collection routes
  • Reducing emissions from waste collection vehicles, and recovering methane from landfills for energy production

 

Objectives

Activities under the Municipal Solid Waste Initiative support the commitments made by Coalition ministers to:

  1. Encourage actions by national, state, and local governments to avoid and reduce methane emissions by diverting organic waste from landfills, which includes preventing and reducing food waste and partnerships with the private sector
  2. Decrease black carbon emissions by preventing the open burning of waste and working towards achieving universal waste collection by 2025
      

To achieve these goals, the Initiative has set out to help 1,000 cities develop robust waste management systems by 2020. The ultimate goal is to enable these cities, and their national governments, to track emissions reductions, self-fund or obtain sustainable financing for capital projects that reduce and prevent emissions, and scale up actions beyond the existing network.

Activity

Description of activities

Workstream | Waste
Ongoing
In communities with inadequate waste management systems, waste might be deliberately burned to free up space at dumpsites, to facilitate scavenging of non-combustible materials (such as metals) for...
Open waste burning
Workstream | Waste
Ongoing
While reducing and diverting waste addresses many landfill challenges, these practices do not prevent landfills from generating methane , a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (...
Landfill methane gas capture
Workstream | Waste
Ongoing
Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. In cities, food often makes up the majority of waste that ends up in landfills, where it gradually decomposes and...
Food waste

Progress

 

Initiative contacts

Sandra Mazo-Nix ,
Municipal Solid Waste Initiative Coordinator
Sandra.Mazo-Nix [at] un.org

Partners & Actors

Lead Partner: A Coalition partner with an active role in coordinating, monitoring and guiding the work of an initiative.

Implementer: A Coalition partner or actor receiving Coalition funds to implement an activity or initiative.

Got it

Partners (28)

Lead
Lead

FAQ

What is the significance of SLCPs in the waste sector?

Globally, landfills are the third largest anthropogenic source of methane, accounting for approximately 11% of estimated global methane emissions, or nearly 800 MtCO2e.  Uncollected waste can contribute to open burning and illegal landfilling or open dumping, contributors to methane and black carbon. 

The World Bank projects that municipal solid waste streams will nearly double worldwide by 2025, which not only places increasing pressure on cities to provide proper collection and management services in order to avoid open dumping and open burning, but also significantly increases the load on the environment in terms of air pollutants like methane and black carbon within a business-as-usual scenario.

What are benefits from improving waste management?

More efficient collection of waste and sanitary landfills as opposed to open dumping helps keep cities cleaner and thus improves surrounding ecosystem health.

Improvement of waste management systems is one of the best ways for cities to enhance real estate values and overall local value and quality of life. While waste management will always ultimately incur economic costs for a city, as a public service that needs to be provided, appropriate waste management strategies can reduce costs from environmental damage and help improve a city’s marketability. Proper waste management can create significant job opportunities as well. A recent study published by the European Commission shows that full implementation of EU waste legislation would save €72 billion a year, increase the annual turnover of the EU waste management and recycling sector by €42 billion and create over 400,000 jobs by 2020.

Waste can also be a resource.  For some cities, generating energy from waste either through landfill gas capture or incineration as a part of an integrated solid waste management plan has the potential to help offset fossil fuel derived energy sources and therefore improve resource efficiency. Additionally, compost produced from organic waste can be used as a soil amendment displacing synthetic fertilizers comprised of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. 

What about food waste?

Food waste is addressed through one of the elements of an integrated solid waste management system through the diversion of organics. Organics management is a challenge to both developed and developing cities like New York City and Penang (Malaysia). A range of technologies exists to avoid emissions of methane from decomposition of organic waste in landfills and dumps, from processing organic waste simple windrow composting to anaerobic digestion technology. Food waste can also be addressed through prevention, for example awareness raising, and outreach and incentive programs. The Initiative will continue to feature cities like New York and Penang who have specific expertise to share with the network in order to scale up successes across the globe.

Furthermore, the Initiative has identified that a key challenge to the sustainability of organics programs that is not commonly addressed by the industry is how to create a market for the generated compost or other products.  That is why the World Bank is designing a results-based incentive mechanism to increase the diversion of organic waste in Penang and is developing a learning tool to help cities from both developed or developing countries on creating sustainable markets for composting to ensure the success of their food waste and organics programs.

What is the hoped-for magnitude of SLCP reductions achievable through the work of the initiative?

In the waste sector, it is important to note that reductions are guaranteed as you move up the waste hierarchy, from open dumping to waste avoidance. However, because the widely varying situations in the world – for example waste composition, climate, economic and social consequences, there is no standardized approach to easily calculate the magnitude of SLCP reduction via waste management efforts.  

Although estimates can be made based on proxies, they will not be realistic or verifiable.  The initiative has begun work to build a calculator to be able to quantify baseline emissions and projected emissions reductions with standardized methodology. We expect the tool to be functional by October. 

Again, rapid action to reduce black carbon and methane can be achieved through banning open burning, optimizing transportation routes and upgrading equipment, diverting organics etc. However these activities cannot be implemented alone as there are considerations for economic and social challenges. That is why the initiative supports the development of tailored integrated solid waste management at the local and national levels. The initiative stresses that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

In the waste sector, it is important to note that reductions are guaranteed as you move up the waste hierarchy, from open dumping to waste avoidance. However, because the widely varying situations in the world – for example waste composition, climate, economic and social consequences, there is no standardized approach to easily calculate the magnitude of SLCP reduction via waste management efforts.  

Although estimates can be made based on proxies, they will not be realistic or verifiable.  The initiative has begun work to build a calculator to be able to quantify baseline emissions and projected emissions reductions with standardized methodology. We expect the tool to be functional by October. 

Again, rapid action to reduce black carbon and methane can be achieved through banning open burning, optimizing transportation routes and upgrading equipment, diverting organics etc. However these activities cannot be implemented alone as there are considerations for economic and social challenges. That is why the initiative supports the development of tailored integrated solid waste management at the local and national levels. The initiative stresses that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

How will the initiative achieve these reductions?

Stratus Consulting conducted a short study on mitigation options for short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) mitigation from the waste sector and identified that the greatest potential to reduce black carbon comes from the transportation of and open burning of waste. Open burning is a challenge in many developing cities due to lack of landfill space and lack of awareness. 

The Initiative’s work with cities will focus on moving up the waste hierarchy and developing integrated solid waste services, and one of the first steps is to gather data on open burning and identify options to mitigate this practice. Another important element in addressing black carbon is to challenge the transport system by optimizing collection routes and upgrading equipment. 

As a part of an integrated approach to waste management, once an assessment has been conducted (first stage of city support), the initiative will be able to report on how many cities will address open burning and transportation of waste as key sources of black carbon.

Resources

2012 | Reports, Case Studies & Assessments
, Le Courtois, A.

The management of municipal solid waste (MSW) sector is worth USD 390 billion in both OECD and emerging countries and provides up to 5% of urban jobs in low-income countries. Global MSW production...

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