Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM)

Over 80% of Local Governments (LGs) worldwide are responsible for residential solid waste collection within their territory [1]. However, solid waste management is a great challenge from an organizational, technical, and financial perspective, and municipalities are often overburden by the task. Without disregarding the importance of the strategic, legal, and institutional framework which national governments can create, this Solution focuses on the processes which the LGs can undertake to promote sustainable waste management in their communities through a long-term approach called Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM).

ISWM is a process which can be implemented for the delivery of technically viable and financially sustainable waste management concepts in communities. It follows a waste management hierarchy aimed to reduce the amount of waste disposal and thus reducing the cost of collection, handling, treatment and disposal, while maximizing resource conservation and resource efficiency. The hierarchy starts on waste prevention, moving to resource and energy recovery, and therefore, ISWM does not focus exclusively on waste disposal [2] [3] (see image below). Waste management is not considered as just a technical issue but rather the importance of political, institutional, social and economic factors is recognized [2]. ISWM requires long-term planning, seeks integration at different geographic scales, explores integration of waste management with neighbor communities, and promotes stakeholder engagement.

Motivation / Relevance

Cities are facing increasing quantities and variety of wastes generated, including hazardous wastes, due to population growth, industrialization, economic growth, and higher GDP shares, particularly in emerging and transition economies [3].

In developing countries, it is common for municipalities to spend 20-50% of their available budget on Solid Waste Management (SWM) [4], and still they are unable to provide reliable and universal services in their territory, at high costs for the society, the environment, and the economy.

Improper waste management results in proliferation of pests and diseases, foul odors and poor air quality, soil contamination, contamination of surface water and aquifers. It causes additional difficulties in densely populated areas where the space for waste disposal is scarce, and where the trash increases the risk of flooding due to obstruction of drainage systems. The contamination of the environment as result of uncontrolled waste disposal hampers economic development [7] and citizens` awareness to the negative impacts on health and the environment is growing [5].

On the other hand, ISWM has great potential to enhance economic, ecological and social progress in cities, namely by maximizing resource conservation and resource efficiency, generating employment and contributing to a green economy [6] [7].

Main impacts

  • Contribution to a green economy [6][7]:
    • Efficient use and conservation of natural resources, namely through substitution of raw materials by secondary materials recovered from waste and through energy recovery.
    • Reduction of the production costs of products and goods (raw materials and energy are major production costs for the manufacturing sector in developing countries), thus increasing economic competitiveness of local companies, particularly as global demand and prices are on the rise [7].
    • Employment opportunities for low skilled workers, contributing to poverty alleviation and reducing child`s labor. [9]
  • Protection of the environment and of freshwater sources. [3][5]
  • Increase service levels to the population on waste collection, transport, treatment and disposal. [2][3][5]
  • Improve urban hygiene and quality of life of the population. [2][3][5]
  • Reduce health and safety hazards. [2][3][5]
  • Improve the image of the city and of the local government, namely to foreign countries - relevant for tourism, to attract foreign investment [7], and exports to countries with high environmental standards. [8].
  • Facilitate orderly urban development and reduce the land area necessary to dispose of waste. [7]
  • Minimize risk of flooding due to obstruction of rainwater drainage by waste. [5]
  • Climate protection thorough mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, both direct by minimizing GHG emissions from waste treatment and disposal, and indirectly due to replacement of raw materials and fossil fuels. [10]

Benefits and Co-Benefits

  • More effective and efficient use of the resources allocated to municipal waste management (financial, material, and human) [2], and better coordination between urban services. [3]
  • Increase the amount of MSW collected, treated and disposed of in a hygienic and environmentally sound way. [2][3][5]
  • Increase the amount of MSW reused as raw materials or as energy source.[10]
  • Job creation, including for low-skilled and illiterate workers (e.g.: collecting and sorting waste), and generation of a source of income particularly for the poor and disadvantaged groups of the society. [7]
  • Capacity building and integration of the informal "waste pickers" to the formal system.