Solid waste is one of the most pressing issues of our time. World over, people are generating greater amounts of garbage without much thought. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” holds true for many of us when it comes to waste issues. Once garbage leaves our homes and offices and factories, do we really consider what happens to it, who’s collecting it, or what impact it’s having on our environment and our health?
Solid waste management (SWM) is a crucial function of local governments around the world, and directly affects public health, the environment, and livelihoods. However, rapid urbanization and population growth place multiple pressures on solid waste management systems, particularly in cities in low- and middle-income countries. In particular, the urban poor are most affected by lack of access to basic SWM services, such as waste collection and disposal. Yet, the sector also provides numerous opportunities: Improving solid waste management provides a cleaner and healthier environment; improves livability for all city residents; and attracts new investment and tourism, which improve a city’s economic competitiveness, creating jobs, and new business opportunities. SWM also contributes to new sources of energy thus tackling climate change challenges. In these ways, SWM is directly relevant to the World Bank’s goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Historically, the highest expenditures of local governments is in the SWM sector but – particularly in low- and middle-income country cities – the bulk of expenses goes towards collection and transport instead of treatment and disposal. Another challenge is ensuring the financial sustainability of SWM projects and cost recovery once SWM infrastructure has been created. The world is generating increasing amounts of waste, with large amounts (primarily plastics) ending up in the oceans. However, there is also a paradigm shift from thinking about waste as something to be disposed – “out of sight out of mind” – to a resource that can be used for energy generation, reduce the use and costs associated with virgin resources, and improve our climate change efforts. Given this background, this e-learning course is designed to look at the SWM sector, with a focus on MSW, from several angles in order to simplify concepts and promote understanding of this sector.