Digging Through - an inside look at municipal waste management in Myanmar


Understanding Myanmar’s solid waste systems presents a challenge for anyone working in the sector. While waste collection and disposal challenges faced by Myanmar’s cities and towns share similarities, strategies to overcome them evolve locally and are often not well-communicated between different local government bodies. Data on the country’s solid wasted is inconsistent and sometimes unreliable, with figures based on proxy indicators, extrapolated from regional estimates, or outdated without clear methodology indications. This report – focusing specifically on Myanmar’s urban areas – categorizes different solid waste management governance and collection structures found in the country and seeks to present a consistent picture of Myanmar’s urban waste situation through a combined and comparative analysis of existing, verified waste data from NGOs, development partners, and municipal bodies.

While the analysis focuses primarily on secondary cities, it includes some data from primary cities as points of reference. Recent, on-the-ground waste audits from Mandalay (a major city) and from five secondary cities provide the baseline for urban waste generation (0.58kg/capita/day) and yield a national waste generation estimate of 0.38kg/capita/day. Data on disposal practices was collected and analyzed in areas that collectively represent 75% of Myanmar’s urban population, revealing that 17% of urban waste generated is leaking into the environment, consisting mainly of plastics. Finally, the paper compares its findings with global waste data published in the World Bank’s 2018 “What a Waste 2.0” report, as well as with data from other regional towns (in Laos and Cambodia). Particularly when comparing disposal methods, this final analysis suggests that Myanmar would be more accurately considered a low-income rather than lower-middle-income country for purposes of waste trend assumptions and that Myanmar’s waste composition and disposal practices closer approximate those of the South Asia region than those of East Asia Pacific.