Reimagining waste management to reduce open dumping and open burning in Africa: Pathways to reduce climate pollutants and health hazards


The issue of waste, environment, and health are central to the deliberation of the second session of the Fifth United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA 5.2) which convenes under the theme of Strengthening actions for nature to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This side-event will look at the major challenges and opportunities associated with the open burning of waste in Africa with the aim to:

  • Raise awareness on the practice of open waste burning in Africa and highlight possible pathways to sustainable waste management by identifying opportunities, challenges, and enablers to curb open waste burning;
  • Enhance the building of a community of practice on open waste burning that can provide guidance and recommendations to take action on curbing open waste burning; and
  • Contribute to the reduction of air pollution, climate threats, environment pollution, biodiversity protection, increased safeguard of public health, and protection of socio-economic welfare of all specifically the vulnerable communities and members of our society.

Nearly 2 billion tonnes of poorly managed solid waste a year may threaten the health and wellbeing of the people and the planet. This is mostly in low and middle-income countries as the trajectory growth of waste generation far outstrips population growth. In Africa, like most developing regions, where waste collection services are mostly sparse and overburdened, the incidence of open dumping and burning of waste is higher, even though nearly half of the municipal waste generated comprises of mainly organic waste. In addition, Africa is the fastest-growing region with waste generation projected to nearly quadruple by the year 2050 and is home to 19 of the world's biggest dumpsites in the world.

The Implementation Plan of the Africa Union Agenda 2063 on The Africa We Want, outlines specific sustainable waste management goals including reduction of agricultural waste burning and curbing of illegal waste dumping which leads invariably to open burning. Although the information around the prevalence of open burning in Africa is limited there is evidence linking it to deteriorating air quality, impacts on natural ecosystems, public health, social-economic well-being of communities, and climate change. However, opportunities exist in ensuring sustainable waste management in Africa that tackles open dumping and open burning. This would support the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) contributing directly to SDGs 11 and 12 with an indirect contribution to achieving all 17 SDGs.

Collaborators on this side event are Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), African Union Commission (AUC), UNEP Regional Office for Africa, UN-Habitat, JICA/Ministry of Environment of Japan, United Nations High-Level Champions (UNHLC), SEI, International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), ICLEI-Africa, Engineering X – Royal Academy of Engineering, C40, Practical Action, Slum Dwellers International.

Watch the recording of the event

Pollutants (SLCPs)