Waste Collection

Waste collection is a fundamental aspect of plastic waste management. This involves the systematic gathering of solid waste from various sources, such as households, industries, commercial or retail establishments, and public spaces.

Key Considerations: Waste collection and transportation are large cost sinks in municipal solid waste management and can account for up to 90% of total disposal costs in lower-income countries and countries in transition, but it is fundamental to any waste management system and must be prioritised.

The Problem

Uncollected waste refers to the garbage and refuse that remains untreated and accumulates in public spaces, residential areas, and natural habitats due to inadequate waste management systems. Unattended waste can become breeding grounds for disease-carrying pests and pathogens, posing significant health risks to nearby communities. 

Furthermore, uncollected waste can contaminate soil and water sources, leading to environmental degradation and potentially affecting ecosystems and wildlife. In urban settings, uncollected waste may clog drainage systems, resulting in flooding during heavy rains. The lack of proper waste collection also perpetuates the cycle of improper disposal practices, as people resort to open dumping or burning waste, exacerbating air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. 

A staggering 90% of waste produced in low-income countries is openly dumped or burned, most of which come from rapidly growing cities.

Potential Solutions

The imperative is for cities to develop waste management programmes that increase collection rates and eliminate leakage before, during and after transport to storage facilities.

By collecting plastic waste effectively, we can support proper disposal and achieve higher rates of recycling, preventing it from ending up in landfills, water bodies, or being incinerated, thereby reducing pollution. No other solution can promise such an immediate or lasting impact.Post-consumer plastic packaging waste (PPW) can be collected for recycling via:

  • Source separation, where households or industries separate plastics from other waste before collection
  • Post-separation, where waste is separated at a treatment centre (such as waste banks, Material Recovery Facilities) after collection


There are also two collection schemes, either curbside or via drop-off locations. These different schemes have an impact on total costs of collection at the municipal level. It can also influence facility choices and network design. Ideally, a method to compare the costs of various collection schemes is needed to design or adopt what is most suitable for a particular locality.

Case Studies

Surat Thani Case Study
[WWF] Community Generates Funds from Selling Recyclables through a Waste Bank Initiative
Clean Urban Waterways
The Great Bubble Barrier
Smart Sensors and Digitalization
River Watch
Source Segregation
Project Stop
Plastic Bank

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