Managing solid waste remains a low priority for most Asian cities. Here’s what we have learned needs to change.

Asia’s cities are the engines of incredible economic growth. For many countries, they generate over 80% of GDP and improve the lives of millions of people.

But this prosperity comes with a price. Take for example the more than one million tons of solid waste that cities generate every day as they grow.
Without proper management, the deluge of solid waste causes severe pollution, helps diseases spread, and generates greenhouse gas emissions. It can also exacerbate urban flooding, which can endanger lives and compromise livelihoods particularly for the poor and marginalized.

Despite these impacts, managing solid waste remains a low priority for most Asian cities, especially when compared with investment in other sectors such as transport, water, and health services. Waste management is an issue that is regularly ignored or, at best, given token consideration.

If we are to meet target 5 of Sustainable Development Goal no. 12 (substantially reduce waste generation by 2030, ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns), urban solid waste management interventions can no longer be piecemeal or underfunded.

Over the next decade, along with energy and transport infrastructure, we need to invest more in integrated solid waste management processes and facilities. If we don’t, making developing Asia’s cities livable in the future will be nothing more than a pipe dream.


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