Professor David C. Wilson
Waste & Resources Management Consultant
Visiting Professor in Waste Management
Imperial College, London

‘Wasteaware’ benchmark indicators to measure the performance of a city’s SWM system

As the culmination of five year’s work by a large team around the world, DCW is delighted to announce the publication today, in the peer reviewed journal Waste Management, of a seminal paper on the development and use of the ‘Wasteaware’ benchmark indicators for integrated sustainable waste management in cities. Solid waste management (SWM) is a key utility service, but data is often lacking. Measuring their SWM performance helps a city establish priorities for action. The Wasteaware benchmark indicators provide a self-assessment and diagnostic tool to measure both technical and governance aspects; have been tested in more than 50 cities on 6 continents; and enable consistent comparison between cities and countries and monitoring progress.

The integrated sustainable waste management (ISWM ) framework is used to analyse a city’s solid waste management system as two overlapping ‘triangles’ – one comprising the three physical components, i.e. collection, recycling, and disposal, and the other comprising three governance aspects, i.e. inclusivity; financial sustainability; and sound institutions and proactive policies. The Wasteaware indicator set combines relatively well-established quantitative indicators for waste generation, composition and the three main physical components or infrastructure, with a corresponding, qualitative, composite indicator for the ‘quality’ of service provision for each physical component; and in addition five qualitative, composite indicators that assess performance for the three main governance aspects.

The paper builds on pioneering work for UN-Habitat’s Solid Waste Management in the World’s Cities . The indictors were further developed and used in a comparative analysis of 20 cities . This experience was fed into a revised indicator set developed as part of the GIZ project onOperator Models . This in turn led to a further round of testing and revision, which has culminated in the ‘Wasteaware’ benchmark indicators, which have now been used in some form in more than 50 cities around the world. This experience confirms the utility of the indicators in allowing comprehensive performance measurement and comparison of both ‘hard’ physical components and ‘soft’ governance aspects; and in prioritising ‘next steps’ in developing a city’s solid waste management system, by identifying both local strengths that can be built on and weak points to be addressed. The Wasteaware ISWM indicators are applicable to a broad range of cities with very different levels of income and solid waste management practices. Their wide application as a standard methodology will help to fill the historical data gap – a User Manual has been published alongside the paper.