Urbanization and economic growth are leading to a rapid rise in municipal waste generation. In 2012, the World Bank projected that municipal solid waste will grow from 1.3 billion tonnes in 2010 to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025. Many cities are struggling with municipal waste that is increasing in quantity and changing in composition while the financial resources to manage waste remain flat.

But solving the solid waste problem is not always a matter of increasing investment. Cities could first focus on the fundamentals—understanding local context and not overly complicating the waste management system—while designing for the anticipated change in waste quantities and composition.

Waste can be a financial asset if cities collaborate to attract investors, select appropriate technologies, extract value from recoverable materials, and work with the informal sector.

—Silpa Kaza & Farouk Mollah Banna, World Bank

The Challenge

3.5 million tonnes of solid waste generated globally per day in 2013.

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6 million tonnes of solid waste expected to be generated globally per day in 2025.

The solution

duediligence_2 Build MSW systems that reflect local waste quantities and composition.
duediligence_3 Focus on fundamentals of waste management before racing to sophisticated solutions.
duediligence_4 Prioritize waste collection and disposal methods that are affordable for the local customer base.
duediligence_5 Select technologies that can be operated and maintained locally.

“For every truckload of product with lasting value, 32 truckloads of waste are produced. We have a waste-making system. Clearly, we cannot continue to dig up the Earth and turn it to waste.”

—Ray Anderson, Founder of Interface & Fortune magazine’s “Greenest CEO in America.”

An effective SWM effort starts here

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Future-proof your system

  • Design the system in a way that it can grow with the population.
  • Anticipate whether economic growth will change local waste composition.
  • Consider the future impact of climate change on your facilities.
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Get prices right

  • Make polluters/waste generators pay.
  • Ensure your pricing incentivizes waste prevention and diversion.
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Make nice with your neighbors

  • Regional waste facilities are cheaper to build and operate.
  • Bundling multiple waste systems within a region makes a deal more attractive to the private sector.
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Extract wealth from waste

  • Create jobs for informal sector.
  • Pull energy from waste.
  • Divert waste to save money.
  • Mine the waste stream for valuable commodities.

Waste composition by income

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Global solid waste composition

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Source: “What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management” by Daniel Hoornweg and Perinaz Bhada-Tata, Urban Development Series Knowledge Papers, World Bank, March 2012, No. 15.