Zero Waste Offer

Worldwide, more than two billion people lack access to waste collection which, together with ever increasing amount of waste, is a longstanding public concern due to its impact on human health, the environment and socio-economic development. The Zero Waste initiative is emerging in view of the need to shift to a circular economy. UNDP aims to support the transition towards zero waste through focusing on municipalities to adopt integrated planning and programming for waste management.

Global Context

Waste management has been a longstanding public concern due to its impact on human health, the environment and socio-economic development. The linear economy paradigm has resulted in increasing consumption of products made of virgin material and low level of recycling or reuse of important resources. The World Bank estimated in 2018 that waste generation will increase from 2.01 billion tonnes in 2016 to 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050. At least 33% of this waste is mismanaged globally through open dumping or burning. 75% of municipal solid waste is openly dumped in South Asia, while this figure is estimated at 69% in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than two billion people lack access to waste collection, more than three billion to controlled waste recovery or disposal facilities. Less than 2% of plastics used in packaging applications is reusable.

In most developing countries, a very low share of municipal solid waste (MSW) is recycled, and very few sanitary landfills or advanced waste-to-energy facilities are operational. Suboptimal management of MSW releases harmful pollutants to air, soil, and groundwater which can enter human food chain. Emissions of Persistent Organic Pollutants and methane from waste dump sites and open burning resulted in the release of about 1.6 billion of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2016, accounting for 5% of total global emissions. Poor communities are affected disproportionally by the waste pollution near their homes.

The planning and implementation of waste management are complex. Often the institutional, economic, and social aspects linked to governance, business model of firms, consumer behaviors are underestimated, while landfill and incineration solutions have been emphasized to address the urgent need of cleaning up. Challenges that are the most often mentioned include the following: (i) Lack of clear and consistent governance, policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks;(ii) Lack of political will, social consensus or ownership, and coordination; (iii) Lack of infrastructure of waste management; (iv) Difficulties of cost recovery for waste collection, transportation, and treatment; (v) Lack of financial instruments to fund waste-to-energy plants or other sustainable solutions; (vi) Lack of regulations or incentives for circularity for companies and individuals; (vii) Lack of suitable alternatives for materials such as plastics; (viii) Lack of know-how, expertise, training and communication; and (ix) Lack of data on waste generation volumes, recycling, preventing informed and careful planning.

The Zero waste initiative is emerging in view of the need for shifting from unsustainable linear patterns to circular economy. In a zero-waste society, economic growth is decoupled from waste generation. Materials are circulated at their optimum quality, so their value is preserved as long as possible. Producers use recycled resources as the main inputs in making new products. The disposal of residual waste is regarded as a last resort and more than 99% of the wastes generated are reused, recycled, sanitarily landfilled, or converted to biogas, bio fertilizer and energy, applying the BAT/BEP that prevent the release of pollutants. Wastes ending up in the landfill will be less than 1%. Waste management becomes a core indicator for a city to demonstrate its commitment to social and environment responsibility.

The roadmap for zero-waste is a gradual process guided by a forward-looking strategy. City managers should carefully assess the waste management model and infrastructures most applicable to their local conditions. This vision requires that governments, companies, and individuals change their attitudes and behaviors, and collectively act to reduce waste generation. Regulations are introduced that steer towards more sustainable products on the market. Public private partnership (PPP) business models are established as needed. Neighboring cities coordinate to achieve economies of scale and provide coherent incentives.

UNDP's Service Lines

UNDP aims to introduce the Zero Waste vision in 50 developing countries by 2025, enhance sustainable waste management governance in cities, and finance the development of Zero Waste policies and strategies in selected cities through a gender[1]responsive and inclusive approach.

  1. Integrated planning and programming for zero waste city
  • Support cities to develop their zero-waste strategy, roadmap, target, and indicators. Support governance, policy, formulation of regulation and standards, design of waste sorting method, and recycling systems. Support data collection and analysis.
  • Help create awareness on MSW management planning, including items to be featured in such plans, the process of developing them, and how to upgrade existing plans.
  • Support governments to close the waste dumping sites. Support a PPP business model when applicable, bring in strategic partners and investors.
  • Support cost-benefit analysis of investment in waste management, including social, economic, and environment assessment. Support knowledge management, communication, monitoring of indicators, and evaluation of the zero[1]waste plans.
  1. Clearinghouse on waste management 
  • Through partnerships established with the experts in this area, provide a one-stop-shop to address questions on municipal solid waste infrastructure and management, help identify and analyze challenges, review and advise on short-term and long-term solutions. Provide advice on the governance, accountability, responsibility framework and enforcement. 
  • Provide policy advisory and technical support services in terms of BAT/BEP. Promote collaboration and twinning arrangements between municipalities. Help build national and regional waste management associations.
  • Communicate circular business models and case studies. Develop and distribute a newsletter on the progress of the zero-waste initiative.
  • Facilitate the creation of zero-waste platforms which convene key stakeholders, including private sector and civil society organizations, for joint solutions to waste challenges.
  1. Financing instruments: 
  • Analyze optimal financing instruments to cover the cost of MSW management, focusing on ways to create sustainable business models and public-private partnerships, covering investments in the key infrastructure and daily operational costs.
  • Legal and financial steering instruments will be explored to address the financial challenges, including the introduction of extended producer responsibility and the use of economic instruments such as different forms of taxes and differentiated waste tariffs.
  • Mobilize resources for a Zero-waste enabling facility in UNDP (ZEF) to support the clearing house functions and enabling policies and activities.
  • Partner with IFIs to secure the finance for sustainable waste management.
  1. Sustainable production and consumption
  • Promote corporate environmental and social governance (ESG) practices for circularity, increase waste information transparency, identify circular business models.
  • Promote product innovation and redesign.
  • Promote sustainable supply chain management. Raise awareness around sustainable purchasing practices using eco-labeling and certification tools.
  • Support actions to eliminate hazardous chemicals and wastes in line with international agreements, promote green chemistry principles.
  • Encourage consumer actions on waste sorting, recycling, and reuse. Promote local innovations for waste reduction at source. Protect and learn from traditional methods and cultures that generate lesser amounts of domestic waste that are integrated into nature by the end of life. Promote local alternatives and business models that can benefit the livelihoods of citizens, particularly the poor.
  • Support integrated and circular plastic management, phase out single use plastics.
  1. Training, Education, Advocacy and Formalization:
  • Assist communication for sustainable MSW through changed attitudes and behaviors of people and companies depending on local conditions and diverse cultural contexts.
  • Provide on-line learning and training courses, develop a toolbox that can be used by municipalities, companies, and waste management stakeholders.
  • Support education and campaigns on sustainability and circularity.
  • When requested by the government, provide support for the formalization of informal waste workers, deliver training and education support.