Jan 24, 2021

A Cross-National Study of Urban Solid Waste Management: Learnings and Way Forward


Municipal solid waste (MSW) is defined as waste collected and treated by or for municipalities. As the world hurtles toward its urban future, the amount of MSW, one of the most important by-products of an urban lifestyle, is growing even faster than the rate of urbanization. However, at the international level, there is enormous heterogeneity in national capabilities to handle MSW and in low and middle-income countries about 3 billion people still lack access to controlled waste disposal facilities (UNEP, 2015).

Under the above context, this collaborative research project seeks to bring insights on co-designed innovative solutions designs for inclusive and sustainable urban environments through (i) efficient MSW management (MSWM) and, (ii) value creation from waste. Efficient MSWM means minimizing environmental contamination and health hazards associated with waste generation, disposal and processing, while creation of value refers to employment and revenue generation, better health, inclusion and well-being generated from improving MSWM. Taken together, they define the ‘circular economy model’ for urban areas considered in this project, with the research query being: how can cities transition to the circular model?

To address this question, the SITE4Society framework developed in UNU-MERIT will be applied. Elements of solution design will involve study of science or knowledge mobilisation (S), new infrastructure and other innovations (I), redesign of existing technology (T) and engagement building through regulation, incentive mechanisms, governance innovations, capacity building, behavioural change nudges etc. (E).

The present project aims to make two significant and useful contributions. First, share knowledge on diverse issues in different cities to build collective insight on the nature of possible transition pathways to a circular economy. Second, explore possible cooperation pathways between Europe and emerging and developing countries, to contribute transitions to a circular economy.  The expected outputs would not only be academic, but also of practical social value.

Who's involved

Prof Dr Shyama Ramani, Maastricht University

Dr Sanae Okamoto, Maastricht University

Ms Maria Tomai, Maastricht University

Dr. Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah, University of Ghana

Dr Ted Nii Yemoh Annang, University of Ghana

Prof Nick Holden, University College Dublin

Dr Tom Curran, University College Dublin

Dr Jean McKendree, University of York

Dr James Chong, University of York

Dr Richard Friend, University of York

Dr Kelly Redeker, University of York

Prof Dr Hiroshan Hettiarachchi, United Nations University-FLORES

Mr Markus Spitzbart, GIZ Ghana

Mrs Ashabrick Nantege Bumutaze, Ministry of Water and Environment Uganda

Dr Bertha Darteh, EAP Consult Ltd

Mr Blake Robinson, ICLEI Africa

Mr Elvis Aboluah, Trashy Bags

Mr Makafui Awuku, Mckingtorch Creatives

Mrs Cordie Aziz, Environment360

Mrs Joanna Bingham, Footprints Africa