and Community-based Solid Waste Management Project
This project aims to reduce, reuse and recycle solid
wastes in Asia’s teeming cities and change perceptions about
waste. It wants policy makers to look at wastes as a resource
rather than refuse, with an apt slogan, “Trash is Cash”.
The project promotes the replication of a model developed by Waste
Concern, a Bangladesh-based non-governmental organization which
earned the UN Poverty Award in 2002 for the initiative.
UNESCAP is assisting the towns of Matale in Sri Lanka and Quy
Nhon in Viet Nam in replicating Bangladeshi community-based model
whereby municipal garbage is composted into environmentally-friendly
According to UNESCAP project officer Adnan Aliani, the model meets
all the criteria of the new approach to solid waste management.
“This model shows ways to reduce transport costs, improve
collection services and provide higher and regular income and
better working condition to waste pickers,” he says.
Estimates from Asia and the Pacific show that as much as 15 to
20 percent of waste in the region is recycled by workers in the
informal sector derogatorily called ‘scavengers.’
This amount can be significantly increased if existing informal
waste recycling systems are incorporated into municipal solid
waste managements systems.
However, as 70 to 80 percent of solid wastes generated are organic,
even with 100 percent recycling the bulk of the problem remains.
A new approach that treats organic wastes as ‘trash is cash’
The compost plants in Matale and Quy Nhon are designed to serve
around 1,000 households. They provide daily door-to-door collection
service using cycle carts operated by teams of two former waste
pickers or scavengers. The waste pickers are provided with uniforms
and safety equipment. Household are trained to separate waste
at source into organic and inorganic waste.
Once collected, the waste is hand-sorted at the plant into either
compostable or recyclable waste, and rejects. Strict quality control
is maintained in composting, after which the waste is enriched
to make organic fertilizer. Recyclable material is sold to junk
dealers and rejects are taken to the dumpsite once every two weeks.
Each compost plant is a profit-making enterprise. Business plans
for each plant shows an average of around 15 percent internal
rate of return from three streams of incomes: collection fees
from households, sale of enriched compost, and safe of recyclables
to junk dealers.
The approach provides several benefits to all participating stakeholders.
For local governments, it minimizes waste transport and disposal
costs. For the participating households it provides improved collection
service. For the waste-pickers it provides higher and regular
income and better working conditions for women who make up the
majority of waste pickers.
It is also an elegant solution to two urgent problems in urban
and rural areas. In the urban areas it addresses the problem of
solid wastes, while in the rural areas it addresses the problem
of deteriorating soil conditions by returning organic matter to
the soil, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and increasing
crop yields. Farmers grow the crops, which are sold in the city,
where they end up as solid waste and are composted into fertilizer,
which is sold back to the farmer – thus completing a full
Local government officials, civil society organizations and organizations