Is There a Key to Waste Recovery in Cities? Try Enhancing Separate Waste Collection

“This Guide offers inspiration and guidance to empower as many communities as possible with the knowledge to seriously consider and implement reliable separate waste collection and recycling at affordable cost through labour-intensive, low-tech approaches. These communities will be rewarded with hundreds of green jobs, a clean city, a proper environment, and satisfied residents.”

Dr. Wolfgang Pfaff-Simoneit

Titled “Enhancing Labor-intensive Separate Waste Collection and Utilization in APEC Economies”, the guide was developed by APEC’s Ocean and Fisheries Working Group based on a successful pilot under the WWF Plastic Smart Cities framework in Tan An City, Viet Nam.

Proper waste collection is the basis of any waste management system and a fundamental step towards achieving a clean, healthy, and livable city. The Guide puts forward separation at source and separate waste collection as a pivotal approach to achieving comprehensive waste recovery, especially among small and medium-sized cities across Asia Pacific.

“Tan An’s case study has shown that practising comprehensive separate collection and waste utilization can help reduce both cost and pollution. We hope that Tan An’s success can be replicated across more cities in Asia,” said Yumi Nishikawa, Regional Lead for Plastic Smart Cities.

Saving Costs with… Labour Intensive Waste Collection

As part of the Long An province in Viet Nam – an area dominated by a rural structure with more than 80% of the 1.5 million residents living in rural areas – Tan An’s proximity to the Mekong River is significant. Over the past decades, the Mekong River has become one of the most critical entry paths for marine litter, not least because of increasing human population and waste production without proper management.

Launched in August 2020, the pilot project set out to understand the feasibility, effectiveness as well as social acceptance of collecting household waste with clear separation across organic, recyclable and other residual waste — a practice that had not been picked up in Tan An previously, despite existing recycling and collection centres, until now.

It also sought to evaluate whether high collection costs — as labour intensive collection incurs personnel costs — can be compensated by revenues and other cost savings, in particular landfilling cost.

To run this pilot, Tan An City’s administration rolled out a series of activities with support from WWF-Vietnam. In a pre-test, this achieved high collection and recovery rates of 80% among organic waste, which is put aside for producing compost. Meanwhile, about 18% of recyclables were recovered, a figure that was lower than expected which was in part due to residents and small business owners continuing to practise the social norm of handing over dry recyclables to informal recyclable collectors who connect with the recyclable market.

In the pilot itself, residents and business owners were encouraged by the project’s waste collectors to continue sorting their dry recyclables and handing or selling them to informal collectors. The pilot achieved similarly high collection and recovery rates of more than 80%, especially with organic waste, and it was estimated that over 60% of the total waste collected in the pilot areas could be diverted from landfills.

If the city of Tan An were to implement the separate collection concept in the whole city, the estimated amount of waste sent to landfills could be reduced by more than 50%, with cost savings in the range of 10%. These cost and landfill saving figures could potentially be higher through the sale of recyclables and organic materials, which were not tested in this pilot. In total, the achievable cost savings and contributions to cost recovery through recycling could reach 30 – 35%, when compared to Tan An’s current system.

[Also read about NAKAMOTO Waste Collector in Donsol who collect waste using motorcycles to reach more area here.]

About the guide

This guide supports municipalities and communities to identify tangible and cost-effective options for comprehensive separate collection and waste utilization that can be easily implemented and replicated in small to medium sized-cities in the APEC region, especially household waste, and similar waste generated in small quantities like waste from shops, restaurants, and small businesses.

The guide outlines the principles of reliable waste collection and aims to support municipalities in developing the most locally appropriate solution. To facilitate this, the Guide can help: 

  • evaluate feasible options in your municipality
  • assist in identifying and leveraging the potential that exists locally
  • provide guidance through the planning and implementation process
 Enhancing Labor-intensive Separate Waste Collection and Utilization in APEC Economies
Published Date: January 2023
Download publication: Download here.
Related paper and presentation: Download here.

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