Cities are at the nexus of a further threat to the environment, namely the production of an increasing quantity and complexity of wastes. The estimated quantity of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generated worldwide is 1.7 – 1.9 billion metric tons.2 In many cases, municipal wastes are not well managed in developing countries, as cities and municipalities cannot cope with the accelerated pace of waste production. Waste collection rates are often lower than 70 per cent in low-income countries. More than 50 per cent of the collected waste is often disposed of through uncontrolled landfilling and about 15 per cent is processed through unsafe and informal recycling.
Municipal Solid Waste Management 2 As a Mayor, you may have to face challenging waste management decisions addressing issues that require immediate attention as well as potential issues that require strategic and integrated planning and implementation. Establishing and improving facilities for collection, recycling, treatment and disposal for MSW management can be very costly. For example, building and operating sanitary landfills and incineration plants require huge investments and incur substantial operation and maintenance costs. Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable locations for waste treatment facilities due to the prevalence of the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) attitude amongst communities.
Meanwhile, if waste is growing at 3-5 per cent a year and rural-urban migration increases a city’s population at a similar rate, then a city’s waste generation will double every 10 years.4 Urban managers are therefore encouraged to pursue the paths of Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) and Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3Rs) that place highest priority on waste prevention, waste reduction, and waste recycling instead of just trying to cope with ever-increasing amounts of waste through treatment and disposal. Such efforts will help cities to reduce the financial burden on city authorities for waste management, as well as reduce the pressure on landfill requirements. We live in a world of increasing scarcity. Raw materials from natural resources are limited, financial resources are often insufficient, and securing land for final disposal is getting more difficult.
Clearly, city authorities should set policy directions aiming for resource efficient, recycle-based society if they are to provide a clean, healthy and pleasant living environment to its citizens for current and future generations. Although waste management responsibilities primarily lie with cities and municipalities, many of the successful cases in waste management involve a wide range of stakeholders in their implementation, as can be seen in the case studies cited here. This gives a clear message to cities and municipalities that they should not try to do everything by themselves. Rather, the key to success is to do what they are good at, and collaborate with other sectors in the society, such as private sector, communities and in some cases with the informal sector, in the interest of expanding waste management services and improving efficiency and effectiveness.
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