Solid waste management is a universal issue that matters to every single person in the world. And with over 90% of waste openly dumped or burned in low-income countries, it is the poor and most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected.
In recent years, landslides of waste dumps have buried homes and people under piles of waste. And it is the poorest who often live near waste dumps and power their city’s recycling system through waste picking, leaving them susceptible to serious health repercussions.
“Poorly managed waste is contaminating the world’s oceans, clogging drains and causing flooding, transmitting diseases, increasing respiratory problems from burning, harming animals that consume waste unknowingly, and affecting economic development, such as through tourism,” says SamehWahba, World Bank Director for Urban and Territorial Development, Disaster Risk Management and Resilience.
Greenhouse gasses from waste are also a key contributor to climate change.
“Solid waste management is everyone’s business. Ensuring effective and proper solid waste management is critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice. “Left unmanaged, dumped or burned, waste harms human health, hurts the environment and climate, and hinders economic growth in poor and rich countries alike.”
While this is a topic that people are aware of, waste generation is increasing at an alarming rate. Countries are rapidly developing without adequate systems in place to manage the changing waste composition of citizens. Cities, home to over half of humanity and generating more than 80% of the world’s GDP, are at the forefront of tackling the global waste challenge.
According to the World Bank’s report, the world generates 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, with at least 33% of that not managed in an environmentally safe manner.
An update to a previous edition, the 2018 report projects that rapid urbanization, population growth, and economic development will push global waste to increase by 70% over the next 30 years – to a staggering 3.40 billion tonnes of waste generated annually.
“Environmentally sound waste management touches so many critical aspects of development,” said SilpaKaza, World Bank Urban Development Specialist and lead author of the What a Waste 2.0 report. “Yet, solid waste management is often an overlooked issue when it comes to planning sustainable, healthy, and inclusive cities and communities. Governments must take urgent action to address waste management for their people and the planet.”
Moving toward sustainable waste management requires lasting efforts and a significant cost.
Yes. Research suggests that it does make economic sense to invest in sustainable waste management. Uncollected waste and poorly disposed waste have significant health and environmental impacts. The cost of addressing these impacts is many times higher than the cost of developing and operating simple, adequate waste management systems.
To help meet the demand for financing, the World Bank is working with countries, cities, and partners worldwide to create and finance effective solutions that can lead to gains in environmental, social, and human capital.