New UN-backed scheme to turn ‘trash into cash’ in Asia-Pacific cities

Marine waste

22 February 2010 – Under a new United Nations-backed initiative launched today, cities in Asia and the Pacific, which are dealing with ever-increasing heaps of waste, will be able to transform ‘trash into cash.’

The scheme – unveiled by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Waste Concern, a Bangladeshi non-governmental organization (NGO) – seeks to help solid waste development strategies become decentralized, pro-poor, low-carbon and self-financing through the sale of carbon credits.

Exploding urban populations and economies in the region have resulted in a surge in solid wastes that municipal governments are finding difficult to dispose of, as dumpsites fill up and land for new ones is becoming harder to come by.

Even though local governments spend up to 60 per cent of their annual budgets to collect, transport and dispose of solid wastes, not all waste is collected and is often disposed in crude open dumps that pollute the atmosphere and water.

The new programme, launched in Dhaka, Bangladesh, seeks to harness the potential of the informal waste collection sector, which has demonstrated that recycling trash can be extremely profitable.

Millions make a living from recycling waste, both from inorganic recyclable waste and organic waste, which can be turned into compost and can generate initial start-up costs through carbon credits.

Waste Concern was one of the world’s first organizations to acquire carbon credits for composting under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), an arrangement under the Kyoto Protocol allowing developed countries to reduce emissions and meet global warming commitments by investing in carbon reduction projects in developing countries.

Since 2005, the organization, ESCAP and local partners have tested and further refind the approach in Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. One compost plant serving some 1,000 households and treating 2-3 tons of waste daily has been built in each country, and both sites have financed themselves.


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