Developing Countries and Solid Waste Management Infrastructure


Our world has roughly 139 countries that are still developing.  This is nearly 70% of the world’s 196 countries.  This means that nearly 70% of the world does not have a solid waste management infrastructure in place.  This is the case for countries of all sizes, including China, India, and Brazil.  These countries are all working on the foundation of their solid waste management infrastructure, each with a different approach.

Some cities in China are beginning the use of a Pay-As-You-Throw method.  Meaning citizens purchase trash bags from the city, the amount spent depends on the amount of waste they produce, instead of paying a set rate monthly.  This solution is said to deter waste, and promote recycling.  It has also been said to save citizens money.  However, this solution also comes with waste sorting, which seems to disgruntle residents.

As for India, they are slowly running out of landfill space, and need to develop a plan to divert waste from their current landfills.   Although, some of India’s cities are trying to find solutions to the trash piling up in their towns, they have yet to come to a conclusive solution.  Civic officials in Pune have expressed their inability to come up with a reasonable solution to their waste problem.  According to The Times of India, Pune’s heaps of rotting trash are beginning to pile up on the street corners in the city.  As much as 4,000 metric tons have not been cleared from the town in nearly 7 days.


Brazil is set to host two major world events in the coming years.  Rio de Janeiro is set to have the World Cup this year, and will welcome the Olympic Games come 2016.  Brazil has a lot to do in the next few years to expand their infrastructure and be ready for the Olympic tourists.  Their plans include highways, plants, ports, and airports.  However, the country will also need to invest in their waste management infrastructure.  According to China Go Abroad, Brazil produces nearly 150,000 tons of garbage each year.  Brazil recently passed into law, the comprehensive National Policy on Solid Waste. This law is the culmination of a long line of policies strongly emphasizing the use of recycled materials. Despite the efforts of Brazil’s government, states, municipalities, agencies, and industry organizations, approximately 43% of the waste collected in Brazil is not adequately treated.


These countries only break the ice on the need for a solid waste management infrastructure in developing countries.  There are still nearly 136 other countries that are in need of a plan or money to solve their waste management problems.  What do you think is the best method to develop a solid waste management infrastructure for these developing countries?


2 thoughts on “Developing Countries and Solid Waste Management Infrastructure

  1. Article is well written. I belong not only to one of the countries mentioned (India); but also to the city used as an example (Pune). As a citizen of Pune & India, I feel, although appropriate laws are there, what is primarily lacking is will of the politicians, bureaucracy to implement them by letter.
    I have hands on experience of trying to set up seven W2E projects in India from MSW. So I am writing out of experience.
    MSW in India is mixed, unsegregated & has all season average of 50% moisture. Thus technologies, which can immediately take this fact in stride ought to be considered for ultimate disposal. Efforts to inculcate culture of 3R etc. can happen side by side, but should not be preached at this juncture.
    Waste to energy is only solution for waste disposal, since access to large land holding for composting or even landfill, through procurement or lease or award from municipal body is just impossible. Land prices are high. People do not want waste disposal facility next door. So it is best to have W2E requiring least quantity of land & can be classified as industry & hence accommodated in industrial estates.
    Secondly the change in mindset of both politicians & bureaucracy to modify these basic laws to facilitate entry & utilization of modern technology producing electricity from waste. Electricity production needs a back from accommodative rules for allotment of plots in industrial area, power purchase, remunerative power rates, grid connection. Hence the existing rules ought to be modified to facilitate the same.
    In absence of above forward linkages, the banks & financial institutions, do not treat this MSW disposal industry as Priority Sector for lending at suitable debt to equity ratio, interest rate, moratorium, suitable collateral margins for loans & long term repayment schedules.
    In terms of waste to energy technologies, many foreign parties have behaving like opportunistic players & try to palm off non-working & untried & tested methods & in turn take promoters for a ride. Hence a mechanism by appropriate world authority has to step in to short list only those technologies, which are really successful, suitable & appropriate ones for the case in hand at Indian cities.
    With above remedies in place, MSW disposal scenario can really improve in India within a span of 5 years. (Dr. Harshvardhan Modak)

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