You are here

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). The decay of its organic component contributes to about 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (UNEP, 2015).

Investing in greening the waste sector can generate multiple economic and environmental benefits. The world market for recycled municipal waste is worth an estimated US$ 300 billion a year and the waste management sector is a significant source of employment, particularly in developing countries (Frost & Sullivan, 2014). Improved waste management has the potential to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 20 per cent, and reduces the contamination of surrounding ecosystem (UNEP, 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


United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)
United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)
Donor Committee for Enterprise Development (DCED), Technopolis Group

Learning Products

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Social & Human Capital Coalition