Waste flow tools offer cities the analytical guidance they need to create, manage and sustain effective solid waste management systems in response to growing urban populations. 

TARGET USERS: Individuals, Government

KEY CONSIDERATIONS: Analysing waste flow helps cities establish priorities for plastic action.

    MORE INFORMATION: See the UNEP, IUCN and Lifecycle Initiative's National Guidance for Plastic Pollution Hotspotting and Shaping Action report.




    Solid waste management is one of the most important functions of a municipal government. However, data on solid waste generation and management is lacking globally, especially in low- and middle-income settings. A lack of data hinders the development of waste management strategies and investments in infrastructure, leading to insufficient or absent waste management services. Poor collection and management triggers severe threats to public health, pollutes air and water, and is the main contributor to marine litter.

    Furthermore, a lack of internationally harmonized waste management concepts, definitions and methodologies, leads to incomparability of data and an overlapping of concepts. The main guiding documents on environmental statistics, such as the Framework for Development of Environmental Statistics (FDES) and the System of Environmental Accounts (SEEA), give general guidance but leave a lot open to different approaches and interpretations. 



    Guidance tools in the form of data collection and monitoring technologies, flow analysis templates, leakage identifiers, and benchmark indicators help cities identify ways they can improve and sustain an integrated waste flow management system. Implementation of these tools enable a city to not only judge its own performance regarding delivery of solid waste management services, but also helps provide information for decision-making, prioritize funds and monitor changes over time. 

    Waste flow tools leverage primary and secondary data on the municipal solid waste management system in a project area in order to design targeted and effective measures to improve solid waste management practices and reduce plastic pollution.



    Waste Wise Cities Tool (WaCT)

    UN-Habitat developed the Waste Wise Cities Tool based on SDG Indicator 11.6.1 monitoring methodology. The Waste Wise Cities Tool enables cities to understand how much waste is generated, collected and managed in controlled facilities with waste composition.

    In 2019, the Waste Wise Cities Tool was pilot-tested in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kenya and Mahe, Seychelles. UN-Habitat also facilitated a local waste management stakeholder’s workshop to identify key intervention areas. Action plans with several project concept notes and recommendations were subsequently developed for improved municipal solid waste management in these cities. These processes were compiled as a waste SDG capacity development package.

    See https://unhabitat.org/waste-wise-cities for more information.


    Waste Flow Diagram (WFD)

    The WFD tool consists of a rapid and observation-based assessment to measure and visualize plastic leakage from MSW management systems into the environment. The tool also determines the fates where this amount of plastic leakage will end up, namely, water bodies, storm drains, land or burnt. The tool is harmonized with the WaCT (SDG 11.6.1 methodology), in that it has been incorporated as part of the 7th step of the methodology. The WFD tool directly inputs data obtained through the WaCT and combines it with additional data points obtained through the WFD tool.


    Wasteaware Benchmark Indicators 

    Wasteaware is an international collaboration of waste professionals, academics and researchers. The Wasteaware Benchmark Indicators provide an online tool to assess the performance of municipal solid waste management and recycling systems in cities, municipalities or groups of municipalities, irrespective of income level. The indicators are a cumulative result of testing various prototypes in more than 50 cities around the world, designed to:

    • Allow a city to assess its own performance regarding delivery of solid waste management services;
    • Provide information for decision-making on priorities for funds available for service improvements, by identifying both local strengths that can be built on and weak points to be addressed;
    • Monitor changes over time; and
    • Allow benchmarking against the performance of similar cities, within a country or in different countries, on a consistent basis.

    See https://rwm.global/ for more information.


    National Guidance for Plastic Pollution Hotspotting and Shaping Action

    The UNEP, IUCN and Lifecycle Initiative created a National Guidance for Plastic Pollution Hotspotting and Shaping Action Report to provide a methodology for countries to identify plastic leakage ‘hotspots’, find their impacts along the entire plastic value chain, and prioritize effective actions to stop leakage at each hotspot. The Guidance will help countries, regions, and cities understand what kind of plastics are leaking into the environment, where they are leaking, and why the leakage happens. It supports users with a model workflow, including a set of tools and templates for data collection, analysis, diagnosis, planning and implementation.

    See https://plastichotspotting.lifecycleinitiative.org/ for more information.  


    Circle City Scan Tool

    The Circle City Scan Tool enables local governments to discover and prioritize ways their city or region can develop circular economy strategies. A circular economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources, keeping products, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer. 

    Together with city officials, local businesses, and non-governmental changemakers, the Circle City Scan identifies "circular opportunities" based on socio-economic and material flow analyses. Considering the city’s individual context, these opportunities are translated into a visual roadmap for action.

    The Circle City Scan Tool was developed in collaboration with organizations at the forefront of the circularity transition: Switzerland, Finland, Czech Republic, Ghana, US, Canada, and Spain. A prototype of the tool is available at: https://cities.circle-lab.com/. Interested parties can contact Circle Economy to join through the tool’s contact form.

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