SUSTAINABLE MUNICIPAL SOLID
As towns and cities around the world expand and populations grow, volumes of waste produced
increase and the challenges of solid waste management change.
This technical brief presents some important considerations for planning solid waste systems. It
begins by outlining solid waste management (SWM) concepts and goes on to describe the
process of planning for sustainable municipal SWM. Some aspects, such as planning secondary
collection, selecting vehicles and designing landfills are quite complex. Although this brief does
not provide in-depth guidance on each of these issues, the final sections do highlight some of
the important questions to consider and suggests possible solutions. The brief also provides
sources of further information.
Responsibility for managing waste usually falls on municipalities, although NGOs, the private
sector and the informal sector often play important roles. This technical brief would be
particularly useful for municipalities, NGOs or businesses involved in planning and managing
solid waste management programmes
Solid waste is defined as material which no longer has any value to its original owner, and which
is discarded. The main constituents of solid waste in urban areas are organic waste (including
kitchen waste and garden trimmings), paper,
glass, metals and plastics. Ash, dust and street
sweepings can also form a significant portion of
Waste is generated by a range of stakeholders
including: pedestrians, households, businesses,
markets, industries and healthcare facilities.
Therefore solid waste can also include toxic waste
(e.g. chemicals from industry), biological waste
(e.g. dressings from hospitals) and occasionally
faeces (e.g. from nappies). These hazardous
wastes require specialised treatment and
disposal, not discussed in this technical brief.
The source of waste often determines its
quantities and characteristics. In developing
countries waste generated from various sources is
often combined at collection and disposal, so due
care must always be taken to ensure the health
and safety of those involved in waste
Photo 1: Door-to-door solid waste
collector in Delhi (Jonathan Rouse)
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