16 March 2010
Economic and Social Council

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Costly, Complex Nature of Sustainable Waste Management Central Theme

of United Nations-Japanese-Led Meeting in Tokyo, 18-19 March


Experts will try to figure out how to handle growing amounts of solid waste, a problem compounded by ever-rising urbanization, population growth and global rates of consumption, at a meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on 18 and 19 March.

Overcoming the expensive and complex nature of sustainable waste management will be a main focus of the International Consultative Meeting on Expanding Waste Management Services in Developing Countries, organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in conjunction with the Japanese Ministry of the Environment and the United Nations Centre for Regional Development.

Waste management is a costly problem and one that pits the limited resources of developing countries against their development goals.  Yet, if left unaddressed, development experts note that inadequate waste treatment could threaten the possibility of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

“This is a critical issue,” says Tariq Banuri, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development.  “We need to help countries develop the right policy frameworks and institutional arrangements to improve waste management -– steps that can also help many local communities address a number of health- and environment-related challenges resulting from inadequate service provision.”

According to the World Bank, it is common for municipalities in developing countries to spend anywhere from 20 to 50 per cent of their available budget on solid waste management.  In some developing countries, collection alone drains up 80 to 90 per cent of municipal solid waste management resources.

And with new challenges, like that of electronic waste, waste management also presents countries with a moving target.  One of the fastest growing concerns, e‑waste, according to recent studies conducted in the European Union, is rising three times faster than other individual waste streams in the solid waste sector.

Coming from an array of sources like electronics manufacturing, household appliances, information technology products and even garbage imports, managing this new kind of garbage and its attendant environmental and social impacts has become an urgent priority for many.

The Tokyo meeting aims to facilitate deeper collaboration among many different stakeholders and support the development of partnerships that could help turn what is now a draining, wasteful and overwhelming process into win-win solutions for public utilities, the private sector and, most importantly, local communities.

The results of the discussions in Tokyo will also be used to inform the deliberations of the Commission on Sustainable Development in May, where waste management will be a key focus at this year’s session.

Information on this meeting can be found at http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/ susdevtopics/sdt_wasthaza_icm0310.shtml.

For further information, please contact Dan Shepard at the United Nations Department of Public Information, tel: +1 212 963 9495; e-mail: shepard@un.org.

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For information media • not an official record