SDGs as Drivers of Change for Waste and Resource Management

Professor David C. Wilson has contributed a chapter on the SDGs as drivers for change to The Routledge Handbook of Waste, Resources and the Circular Economy, edited by Terry Tudor and Cleber Dutra and published on 28 December 2020. This has been a subject on which DCW has worked extensively, as re-casting improved waste and resource management as an entry point for tackling multiple, high-profile sustainable development goals significantly strengthens the case for action.

Solid waste management is not one of the high-level SDGs; like the equally important topic of air pollution, it is rather cross-cutting, impacting on multiple SDGs. DCW links five global waste targets, as defined in UNEP and ISWA’s inaugural Global Waste Management Outlook, to the 17 SDGs. He shows strong and in principle measurable links to six SDGs, not only the ‘obvious’ SDG11 (sustainable cities) & indicator 11.6.1, and SDG12 (responsible consumption and production); but also SDG1 (end poverty), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation); and SDG13 climate action and SDG14 life below water (preventing plastics reaching the oceans). Links to six other high priority SDGs are still direct but more difficult to measure (e.g. SDG8 decent work through sustainable job creation, and SDG2 zero hunger through reducing food waste). Indirect links can also be made to the remaining five SDGs, including difficult-to-tackle equality and governance issues.

The Handbook sits behind a paywall, with only the abstract of the chapter online. The accepted manuscript of the chapter can be downloaded here:

Benchmarking performance of SWM systems in East Africa

Professor David C Wilson has been working for the last two years with the Rwandan academic Telesphore Kabera to apply the Wasteaware indicators to benchmark performance of the solid waste management (SWM) and recycling system in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Their results form the basis of a paper published today in the first ever open access issue of the long established ISWA peer-reviewed journal Waste Management & Research. The paper uses previously unpublished results from the Wasteaware database to compare Kigali’s performance with four other East African capital cities – Dar-es-Salaam, Kampala, Nairobi and Maputo.
The Wasteaware benchmark indicators grew out of work originally carried out for UN-Habitat’s Soild Waste Management in the World’s Cities (2010). They provide a standardised method to characterise the performance of a city’s SWM and recycling system across some 15 indicators, some quantitative and some qualitative, covering both waste generation, the physical aspects of waste and resource management, and various governance aspects. Results for the first 40 cities were used extensively in UNEP and ISWA’s inaugural Global Waste Management Outlook (2015). They are now being applied widely, both to characterise the baseline position in a city; to identify priority areas for improvement; and to monitor progress over time.

From this paper on East Africa, the stand-out result is the relatively high collection coverage achieved in two of the cities: in Maputo with extensive international technical assistance, and in Kigali using its own local resources. In both cases, governance factors are key. Kigali uses a public-private partnership (PPP), with exclusive franchises in 35 sectors being tendered every three years; households pay an affordable fee depending on their ability to pay (the service is free to the poorest category); 95% fee collection rates are achieved, partly through co-collection with charges for local security patrols, which is a service people value highly given the recent history of the country.

Another key priority to improve solid waste management across East Africa is to eliminate open dumping – only Kampala currently has an engineered disposal site. Recycling rates also need to be increased – only Nairobi currently has a good baseline to build on (30%). Common weaknesses include a lack of segregation at source; and of institutional capacity and of available and reliable waste data.

Achieving the waste-related SDGs

Ljiljana Rodic and David C Wilson’s paper in the peer-reviewed open access journal Sustainability was published today: Resolving Governance Issues to Achieve Priority Sustainable Development Goals Related to Solid Waste Management in Developing Countries. As a key utility service that more than 2 billion people are currently lacking, solid waste management (SWM) is a crosscutting issue that can be directly linked to 12 out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Distinguishing between physical components and governance aspects of SWM, this research focuses on governance issues concerning basic solid waste collection services and controlled disposal, thus addressing the ‘How’ and the ‘Who’ dimensions of a SWM system.

As a form of transdisciplinary research, the findings from the literature on governance issues in SWM were iteratively subjected to several rounds of commentary by a large group of stakeholders from six continents, within the authors’ work for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s 2015 Global Waste Management Outlook. The study identifies a combination of complementary instruments required for extending collection to all and bringing disposal under control. While municipalities have a legal responsibility for providing services to their citizens, various service providers can contribute to an effective SWM system. Appropriate forms of funding are essential to secure financial sustainability of the services under the local conditions of affordability and willingness to pay. As new services require behavioural change on the part of citizens and municipal waste departments alike, communication and exchange with other stakeholders function as enabling and supporting factors. The significance of capacity development is highlighted.