IGES and Its Partners Launch Global Project to Cease Open Waste Burning for Mitigation of Air Pollution, Climate Change and Health Risks


IGES, in partnership with Engineering X, the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Practical Action and UN Habitat, announces the launch of a ground-breaking project “Creating the enabling conditions for eliminating open burning of waste through regional roadmaps and city pilots” supported by the United Nations Environment Programme’s Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). The project, starting in March 2024 and spanning two years, is designed to confront and eliminate the environmentally detrimental practice of open waste burning, and  underscores the critical strides being made towards the global ambition of mitigating air pollution and climate change impacts, aligned with the Paris Agreement, while also promoting economic development and health improvements.

In Asia, it is estimated that around 5% of premature deaths were attributed to the exposure to PM2.5 emitted during the burning of domestic waste (Kodros, 2016) and that open waste burning releases a minimum of 977,000 tonnes of black carbon annually, which represents 63% of global black carbon emissions (Reyna-Bensusan, 2019). While household energy and transport are the largest sources of black carbon emissions, open waste burning cannot be dismissed. Incomplete waste collection and disposal at controlled landfill sites results in significant levels of waste being disposed directly through local burning or thrown in waterways and open areas, or intentional burning at uncontrolled dumpsites. The collection rates in the South Asia, East Asia and Pacific regions have been rising and have reached 70-80%.  However, the rates differ widely by region, cities, and income level (What a Waste 2.0, 2018). While some cities in lower-income countries have expanded collection coverage, many still lag behind in proper waste processing or controlled disposal. The problem is global but the impact of burning municipal solid waste is particularly acute in many low- and middle-income countries where people living and working near burning sites suffer the toxic effects of polluted air, ground and water sources.

The centrepiece of this initiative is the development of comprehensive roadmaps aimed at abolishing open waste burning in Africa, Asia and Latin America & the Caribbean.  IGES will take the lead in developing roadmaps in Asia.. These strategic roadmaps are crafted to propel concerted action among national and local governments, development partners, civil societies, and financing bodies. Each roadmap will be built on reviews of existing policy, strategy, laws, regulations and analysis of data related to waste management and burning. Field surveys, consultative meetings, and interviews with key stakeholders will also be conducted to understand the reasons and scale of the practice of open burning of waste. In this way,  strategic actions will be developed to expand waste collection and promote waste reduction and separation at source thereby reinforcing reuse, recycling and recovery. These actions will be implemented in selected cities in Asia as pilot activities to test the effectiveness and potential impacts of the roadmaps.

The roadmaps will provide a structured framework for action, emphasising:

Policy Review and Enhancement: Detailed analysis of current policies, strategies, laws and regulations, identifying gaps and opportunities for strengthening waste management and reducing open burning.
Data and Emission Analysis: Utilisation of existing data to map out emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and Black Carbon, which is one of the Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs), enabling targeted interventions.
Stakeholder Engagement: Implementation of field surveys, consultative meetings and interviews to understand the drivers of open waste burning and to foster community involvement in sustainable waste management practices.
Awareness and Capacity Building: Increased  awareness of the hazards and loss of valuable resources associated with open waste burning and  capacity-building  aimed at relevant stakeholders to develop the roadmaps effectively.
Pilot Activities: Implementation of pilot activities in selected cities in Asia to test the roadmaps’ effectiveness and potential impacts, with the aim of replicating success in other cities and countries.

IGES is part of a global consortium that brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this critical environmental challenge. By laying down actionable roadmaps, the project aims not only to curb the harmful practice of open waste burning but also to pave the way for sustainable waste management solutions that can be scaled and replicated regionally and globally.