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Cities with Effective Solid Waste Management System

Updated: May 22, 2020


1. Introduction

Solid waste management is an important aspect of planning and needs to be carefully planned, keeping in mind the health, environmental and ecological hazards. The following research aims at finding the best practices in developed and developing countries about the management of solid waste. It will identify the barriers that countries around the world have when dealing with the management of solid waste and try to provide a solution.

Due to increase in population, there is a rise in waste generation rate around the world (World Bank, 2019). In 2016, the worlds’ cities generated 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste, amounting to a footprint of 0.74 kilograms per person per day (World Bank, 2019). With the current rate of growth and urbanisation, it is expected by 2050 that these levels will be increased by 70% to 3.40 billion tonnes (World Bank, 2019). Most vulnerable to this growth are the residents in developing countries, especially the urban poor who are exposed to 90% waste disposed in unregulated dumps or openly burned (World Bank, 2019). Consequences of these harmful practices are on health, safety and environment of these urban poor as these practices serve as a breeding ground for disease vectors contributes to global climate change through methane generation, and can even promote urban violence (World Bank, 2019). To manage the solid waste appropriately, it will require an efficient internal system, the municipal budget of 20% to 50% of the total budget and the social support (World Bank, 2019).


2. Literature Review

Within the different levels of governance ranging from federal, state and local it is clear that solid waste management has a functional base including generation, storage, collection, transfer, transport, processing and recovery, disposal, administration, and regulation (Theisen, Maxfield, & Lynch, 1975). In addition, law, technology and public and private refuse industries, all compartmentalise along with the above-stated government functions and administerial hierarchy (Theisen, Maxfield, & Lynch, 1975). For planners, systematic integration of solid waste management is necessary to prepare the development of a plan and to provide with a sound solid waste plan and methodology (Theisen, Maxfield, & Lynch, 1975). It is observed that most of the plans developed are having certain federal or state mandates or local level critical problem and is applicable for both developed and developing countries (Theisen, Maxfield, & Lynch, 1975). Having recognised this, planners then organise their work and plans along these narrow lines (Theisen, Maxfield, & Lynch, 1975). Following is an attempt to review the solid waste management plan and methodology (Theisen, Maxfield, & Lynch, 1975).


Figure 1. From Cradle to Grave solid waste management


Waste Collection:

The cradle of the solid waste is the point at which it leaves the household and similar commercial waste, and it can be either collected or delivered (e.g. to bottle banks) in a variety of ways (McDougall, White, & Franke 2001). Collection of solid waste in the developing countries is inefficient with rotting in heaps on the ground and blocking drains, provides a breeding ground for rodents and insects which become the reason for many diseases and endemic (Coffey, 1999). Health hazards are more in solid waste management compared to on-site sanitation systems. However, there is still little progress in developing countries about solid waste management and a handful of success stories around the world (Coffey, 1999). In these countries, solid waste management is considered a low status and provided with low finance and short of resources (Coffey, 1999). During this, if the solid waste management system breaks down, consultants from industrialised countries are called in. They impose their technology from the developed world without an understanding of the local conditions, and again a point of crisis is reached in a short period (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015).


Transfer and Transport:

Another essential functional element of the solid waste management system is effective to transfer and transport (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). This involves the transfer of collected waste from the point of source to the point of disposal (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). There are two main problems associated with the waste transfer and transport in the developing world, and, i.e. vehicles are obsolete, expensive and ineffective (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). On the other hand, in developed countries, proper funding to transport system enables effective management of solid waste transport from the source to the point of disposal (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). Developed countries use significant packaging content and have low-density content (Coffey, 1999). Therefore, refuse collection vehicles used in such countries must compact the waste in order to have an economic load to carry (Coffey, 1999). In developed countries, due to regular collection of the waste and colder climate which helps waste not to decompose before collection. (Coffey, 1999).

Separation, processing and transformation:

Once the waste is transported, the next step is to do sorting into various components such as glass, plastic, metal, rubber and organics, among others (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). The recyclable material such as plastics, glass and aluminium cans are further processed and transformed into bales and are sent to recycling centres (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). They can even be sent to 'waste to energy' facilities such as 'incineration', 'pyrolytic' and 'gasification plants' (Solid waste management, 1973). Organic waste is sent to a composting plant (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015) or Anaerobic digestion plants (Solid waste management, 1973). Other than these methods used after the collection and transport, there are methods which can also be used to reduce the amount of solid waste within households, before collection (McDougall, White, & Franke 2001). Home composting of organic material is an excellent example of this which occur on-site and before solid waste material leaving the household. (McDougall, White, & Franke 2001). Due to lack of finance, government initiative and willingness such practices in developing countries are less frequent while illegal dumping and open burning are more common (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015).


Final Disposal:


Figure 2. Different types of treatment technologies

Disposal is done in such a manner that it minimises its environmental and ecological impacts (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). In developed countries, there are workable legislation, regulations and action plan to safeguard these impacts (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). Additionally, the emphasis is given to the three R’s, namely reduce, reuse, recycle in order to reduce the material going to landfill sites (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). They develop their solid waste management strategies based on the above notion (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). However, although landfilling and incineration are seen as the final destination, there are some left-overs in these processes which are then further processed to create better value for the material in terms of gas and water with measurable burdens (McDougall, White, & Franke 2001). In contrast, in the developing countries, there are irregular collections, informal scavenging activities, illegal open dumping, and uncontrolled burning to reduce the volume of wastes (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). Other reasons for the poor practices in these developing countries include lack of education, poverty, lack of appropriate infrastructure, regulation and most importantly willingness to implement proper waste management strategies (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015). However, a new development in an engineered sanitary landfill, composting and incineration, are now emerging in developing countries and that the problem of dumps is decreasing with the introduction of proper regulations and infrastructure (Mohee, & Simelane, 2015).


3. Research Methodology:

Aim of this research was to identify the best practices in effectively managing solid waste in different parts of the world. Review of the literature helped to understand the current practices implied in developing countries of Africa, South Asia and the developed countries of North America, Europe. Thorough research did by comparing different approaches to a common problem, was to give recommendations to the research problem. The research used both qualitative and quantitative methods for its analysis, making the analysis sound, both in terms of theory and practice. While doing qualitative research, essential insights discussed to reach a solution, and these solutions then confirmed by statistical data in a quantitative method. The research was done based on the entire journey of ways to collect solid waste from homes to the process of disposal, and its final destination. The steps from the cradle to the grave of solid waste management included waste collection, transfer and transport, separation processing and transformation, landfilling, composting, anaerobic digestion, material recycling, incineration and waste disposal. The final stage of the solid waste management was observed to be effective in the reduction in pollution and utilising and reusing it as a renewable source of energy. Overall a life cycle of the solid waste management and the legal framework implication in various countries was discussed in this research.


4. Results


Figure 3. Graph showing amount of waste generated


From the qualitative analysis of the literature review above, the process of solid waste management happens in stages from the cradle to the grave. The essential insights which were observed were that it is possible to reduce waste at the collection point itself by mitigation measures inside household, commercial or industrial sites. Also, at the final disposal point, the residue of the treated waste can further be processed to remove the small fraction of leftover waste. The treatments such as incineration, aerobic digestion, composting can help to remove these small fractions of solid waste. Although developed countries follow these processes in an orderly manner, there is quite an agreement over many issues of waste management. The barriers for the developing countries are willing to conduct these processes, and they have a limited budget for these processes, which is around 20% to 50% of the total budget. Even if they have the budget, the technology is brought from the developed world, which has limited scope for the maintenance of the system. Having said that the developing counties are now making efforts in a positive direction by being innovative in managing the solid waste with proper processes, technology and means of disposal. The three R-s reduce, reuse, recycle have become effective almost in all the countries. All this can be reflected in quantitative data below to make the research sound and robust.


Globally, we are producing 2.01 billion tonnes of waste currently, which is expected to rise to 3.40 billion tonnes by 2050. As per the graph, developed countries are projected to increase by 19% by 2050 compared to a 40% increase in developing countries. The East Asia and Pacific region are generating most of the world’s waste, at 23 per cent, and the Middle East and North Africa region is producing the least in absolute terms, at 6 per cent. However, the fastest-growing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa, where, by 2050, total waste generation is expected to more than triple, double, and double respectively (World Bank, 2019).


Waste collection is a critical step in managing waste, yet rates vary largely by developed providing nearly universal waste collection. Developing countries collect about 48 per cent of waste in cities, but this proportion drops drastically to 26 per cent outside of urban areas. Across regions, Sub- Saharan Africa collects about 44 per cent of waste while Europe and Central Asia and North America collect at least 90 per cent of waste. The above figures in quantitative data clarify the need for constructive action in developing countries in regards to waste management system. The data proves the arguments made in the qualitative data presented in the literature review (World Bank, 2019).

5. Conclusion/ Discussion

waste management is a perpetual problem both in developing and developed counties. As we have seen in the research results, there is a constant increase in the solid waste being generated every year. Currently, it averages 0.79kg/capita/day in developing countries and 1.55kg/capita/day in developed countries. There is a difference in the type of waste generated in the world with developing countries producing more organic waste and developed countries producing recyclable materials. Thus, developing counties adopt biological treatment systems, such as composting and AD. In contrast, MSW from developed countries is mostly suited to recycling and waste-to-energy technologies such as incineration, pyrolysis or gasification. SWM systems in developing and African countries are fewer in comparison to developed countries, due to the lack of infrastructure, resources, expertise and know-how in waste management. Nevertheless, as developing and African countries are continuously emerging and approaching the standard of living of developed countries, necessary regulatory frameworks governing SWM will need to be set-up to solve the problem of increasing solid wastes generation in developing and African countries.

6. References:

Health and sustainable development, World Health Organisation https://www.who.int/sustainable-development/cities/strategies/urban-waste/en/ [Accessed 18April, 2020].

Mohee, R., & Simelane, T. (Eds.). (2015). Future directions of municipal solid waste management in africa. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest- com.library.britishcouncil.org.in:4443 [Accessed 18April, 2020].


McDougall, F. R., White, P. R., & Franke, M. (2001). Integrated solid waste management : A life cycle inventory. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest- com.library.britishcouncil.org.in:4443 [Accessed 18April, 2020].

Hickman, H. (1993). Regionalizing municipal solid waste management. Ekistics, 60(358/359), 30-39. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/43623674

Coffey, M. (1999). Cost-effective systems for solid waste management. Waterlines, 17(3), 23-25. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/24681625

Theisen, H., Maxfield, P., & Lynch, G. (1975). Solid Waste Management Planning: A Methodology. Journal of Environmental Health, 38(3), 164-167. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/44545100

Menikpura, N., Janya Sang-Arun, & Bengtsson, M. (2012). (Rep.). Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/resrep00745

Sang-Arun, J., & Menikpura, N. (2013). Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) for low carbon development: Learning from experience in Asia (pp. 116-121, Rep.) (Koakutsu K., Usui K., Watarai A., & Takagi Y., Eds.). Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/resrep00728.23

SOLID-WASTE MANAGEMENT. (1973). The Science Teacher,40(7), 23-26. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/24122876

Theisen, H., Maxfield, P., & Lynch, G. (1975). Solid Waste Management Planning: A Methodology. Journal of Environmental Health, 38(3), 164-167. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/44545100

World Bank (2019) Urban Development. Solid waste management https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/brief/solid-waste- management [Accessed 27April 2020]

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