Sustainable Integrated Waste Management: Aiming at the Source Rather than the End

Volume (Issue): April (2019)
Non Peer-reviewed Article

The significance of environmentally sound waste management for achieving sustainable consumption and production as well as a pollution free planet was one of the key priorities discussed at the recently concluded United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA4) in Nairobi. Recognising the co-benefits of sustainable waste management to meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and Paris Climate Agreement, UNEA4 invited national governments to promote integrated waste management policies and strategies in cooperation with regional and international agencies.

However, the meaningful implementation of these national policies at the local level is a very challenging issue for many local governments whose resources and technical capacities are limited. The increasing waste volume and its diversity make sustainable waste management even more challenging for developing countries and their cities.

How can cities successfully introduce integrated waste management systems that reduce the amount of waste at the source rather than focusing on technical end-of-cycle applications? We looked at four cities in South-East Asia, which all show remarkable success in reducing the volume of waste by engaging different stakeholder groups. To achieve sustainable integrated waste management, municipalities need to move away from end-of-pipe approaches. What is rather needed are softer approaches that set incentives for sustainable waste management at an early stage of waste handling.