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Waste generates significant global economic, social and health-related costs and liabilities. Each year cities generate approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste and this is expected to grow to 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025 (World Bank, 2013). Waste releases methane gas when disposed of in an oxygen-limited environment such as a dump or a landfill and releases pollutants and particulate matter during inefficient transportation and burning. Methane, generated from decomposing organic waste, is the solid waste sector’s largest contributor to GHG emissions and is considered to be more potent than CO2 (World Bank, 2018).

Investing in greening the waste sector can generate multiple economic and environmental benefits. One example would be the use of economic instruments in the waste management sector. It can contribute to strengthen waste management systems like in the “polluter-pays-principle” by providing revenue – either through user charges or through taxes and charges on waste generation or disposal that can be earmarked for waste management services (GIZ, 2012). Greening the waste sector primarily involves the three 3Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle – with the long-term vision being to establish a “circular economy” in which the use of materials and subsequent waste is limited, most unavoidable waste is recycled or remanufactured, and any remaining waste is treated so as to minimize environmental damage or even create additional value through recovering energy embedded in material or products. 

Relevance to SDGs

The importance of integrated waste management is stressed as a part of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12, describing sustainable consumption and production patterns as well as mentioned in SDG 11.6 urging special attention to municipal waste management to make our cities more resilient.

Explore green growth resources related to SDG 12: 

SDG 12.3
        Food Waste        
   SDG 12.4
    Chemical Waste    
   SDG 12.5
Waste Management

Learning Products

Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)
United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), The Open University