United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

UN-HABITAT

United Nations Human Settlements Programme
Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting (IPM) for the
Nineteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development
Waste Management
Constantly, we hear that cities are nowadays home to half of the humankind; as a matter of fact, this trend is
expected to continue and possibly increase to a point where two-thirds of the world population, or 6 billion
people, will be so to speak urban by 2050. As urbanization advances, new opportunities arise and economic
and social processes that generate wealth are set going. Generally speaking, urbanization is regarded as a
positive phenomenon, which is shaping the world and contributing to the improvement of the living conditions
of millions of people.
However, especially in developing countries, problems of access to reliable and effective basic services are
common and increasingly pressing. The issue of solid waste management (SWM) is becoming more and
more prominent (usually amongst the top five most challenging problems for city managers) and it is
currently acknowledged as an extremely complex topic to be faced in an integrated way; this involves
aspects such: definition of national policies and intervention strategies, a sound and clear legal framework,
coordinated sector policies, organizational and management reforms, new financial models, adoption of
suitable technologies, education and sensitization campaigns, etc.
From this point of view, UN-Habitat endorses and promotes the concept of Integrated and Sustainable Solid
Waste Management, known as ISWM. The approach rests on six fundamental pillars, in order as follows,
grouped together as ¡¥technical or physical¡¦ elements and ¡¥governance or software¡¦ components.
?Ï Public Health.Mainly linked to the collection/removal of wastes, which together with the
management of human excreta (sanitation), represents a priority and one of the most vital
urban services. If uncollected, municipal solid waste poses a threat to the blockage of drains
and consequent flooding, the spread of water-borne diseases, as well as an increase in the
incidence of respiratory infections and the development of tumoral diseases.
?Ï Environmental Protection. Especially with respect to the treatment and disposal phases.
Although gradual and often slow, the process of moving towards modern disposal solutions
should be supported; this includes the phasing out of uncontrolled disposal sites which
causes environmental pollution (i.e. combustion of waste and generation of toxic
compounds/dioxins, leakages and contamination of groundwater resources, etc.) and the
introduction of environmental standards. Besides, GHG emissions produce additional
negative impact in terms of contributing to the phenomenon of global warming. To this end,
Cleaner Development Mechanisms could be taken into consideration as an opportunity.
?Ï Resource Management. The concept of ¡¥closing the loop¡¦, which is based on returning both
nutrients, materials and energy to beneficial use, through reducing the quantities of waste
and striving for high rates of recovery, reuse and recycling (i.e. 4R). Composting, biogas
generation, urban livestock and co-processing are viable options to be explored.
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?Ï Inclusivity. This is the first of the governance features. A functioning and effective SWM
system should involve all the stakeholders in planning, implementing and monitoring: the
providers of the services, such as the local authorities, the users, and the whole of external
agents that are in a way or another connected to the sector. As a consequence, constant
and broad consultations, clear communication, participatory planning, inclusivity in siting
facilities, creation of institutional forums and platforms, etc. are all good practices and
recommendations to be embraced. Particular attention is to be paid to the involvement of the
informal sector, the private sector and other community actors. In fact, informal sector
recycling, reuse and recovery systems currently provide livelihoods to a huge number of the
urban poor (1% according to World Bank) and can save a city as much as 15 to 29 per cent
of its waste management budget.
?Ï Financial Sustainability. In developing and transitional country cities, SWM represents a
significant proportion of the municipal budget, with figures between 3 to 15 per cent. The
introduction of user fees is a necessary measure, but it entails issues of equity, affordability
and willingness to pay. Cross-subsidies, general revenues, taxation and the support by
national governments and municipalities should complement the resources obtained as
service fees.
?Ï Sound Institutions and Proactive Policies. A strong and transparent institutional framework is
essential to good governance. In order to ensure this, a few underlying issues must be
addressed, notably corruption, accountability, management structures, contracting
procedures, budget allocation and cost recovery. Private sector involvement should follow
the principles of pro-poor public-private partnerships (5Ps), and foster competition and
transparency.
UNHABITAT continues to implement regional project on solid waste management focusing on building
capacity at the national level. Specifically, through its recent global report on the state of solid waste
management in the world cities, it is promoting the benchmarking of solid waste management at city level