Mountains in the Chaning World, Mountains in the Chaning World

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Municipal Solid Waste Management and Resource Recycling in Asia
Agamuthu Pariatamby

Last modified: 2017-09-13


There are 4.45 billion people in Asia (2016) of which 48.1% live in urban cities. Asian cities generated 0.28 billion tonnes of waste in 2012 and this will increase to 1.8 billion tonnes in 2025, which makes Asia the largest waste generating continent. Waste related data is incomplete and unreliable. Plastics are the most prevalent debris in marine environment with 60-80% of the total debris. Waste collection services have serious gaps and collection rates in Asia is dismal. This will be the top priority- to establish basic infrastructure for waste collection, treatment and disposal. High-income countries produce a higher percentage of inorganic waste compared to organic waste. For example, Sri Lanka recorded the highest percentage of organic waste (80%), and China, India, and Japan show higher generation of e-waste as compared to other countries in Asia. Construction and demolition (C&D) waste, a by-product of urban development, contribute to approximately 25–35 per cent of MSW. Almost all the countries have enacted waste-related legislation that prohibit the indiscriminate disposal of waste. However, compliance remain poor. Many countries have monitoring and reporting provisions, or both, but very few practice reporting with auditing, inspection, or oversight on a regular basis. Thus, there is need to step up the monitoring and enforcement. The informal sector plays an important role in waste management in Asia. Informal waste workers bring cost effectiveness and efficiency to key waste management processes of collection, segregation, and recycling. However, provisions for occupational health and safety and environmental safeguards remain poor. Capacity building is required to impart health and safety know-how, and financial support is required to incentivize the contribution of informal waste workers. Integration between the formal and informal sector is thus essential Positioning the informal sector in integrated solid waste management—with Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (3Rs)—is the key. It has an enormous potential for creating green jobs and promoting entrepreneurship. Civil society organizations play an important role in integrating informal sector with formal waste management system. In Bangladesh for example, an organic waste composting project helped create 400 jobs for collection activities and 800 jobs for compost processing. The government of India has initiated capacity-building programmes to help develop the skill sets of the informal sector for employment though the Skill Council for Green Jobs. Asia holds the potential to be the largest market for secondary materials. High-volume bulk waste streams such as C&D waste offer high potential for material recovery. China has become the largest industry for secondary plastics. China along with Japan are the biggest market for secondary paper. The private sector must be encouraged through innovative business models and financial incentives to take up waste recycling and treatment. Result-based financing and innovative financial instruments, such as green bonds, may be considered to link sustainable waste management to reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

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