3.7 Solid Waste Management and Wastewater Treatment
Methane is generated from solid waste and wastewater through anaerobic decomposition.
Together, solid waste and wastewater disposal and treatment represent about
20 percent of human-induced methane emissions. Emissions are expected to grow
in the future, with the largest increases coming from developing countries.
Methane emissions can be reduced in many ways, including reducing waste generation
(source reduction), diverting waste away from disposal sites (i.e., through
composting, recycling, or incineration), recovering methane generated from the
waste, or ensuring that waste does not decompose in an anaerobic environment.
In general, any technique or technology that reduces methane generation or converts
methane into carbon dioxide through combustion will reduce greenhouse gases.
The most effective mitigation approaches are those that either reduce overall
methane generation (because methane collection efficiencies rarely approach
100%) or ensure that the combusted methane is substituted for fossil-based energy.
Extensive technology transfer aimed at improving waste management is underway
both within and between countries, although most activities have been, and will
likely continue to be, domestic in nature. In many regions, large investments
are still required to provide adequate waste management services. In the past,
the climate-related impacts of waste management choices were not routinely considered.
Mitigation technologies can be readily deployed in this sector, however, and
provide benefits beyond the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, such as reduced
landfill space requirements or additional energy generation through methane
Governments play a predominant role for technology transfer in the waste management
sector , with several levels of government (from the national to the municipal
level) participating. Key government priorities include the establishing of
appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks, supporting the expansion of private
sector participation, participating in technical assistance and capacity building
activities, particularly with community groups, and in some cases providing
incentives to catalyse desirable actions.
Historically, the private sector (including both domestic and multinational
firms, as well as more informal local enterprises) and community-based organisations
have been somewhat limited participants in government-driven technology transfer.
The private sector has an increasingly important role, however, because meeting
future waste management needs depends on expanded private investment. Private
sector driven pathways are already used routinely for some types of investments
(such as methane recovery at landfills), and efforts are underway to expand
private sector participation across the full range of waste management services
and technologies. The involvement of community organisations is also increasing
as the link between community support and project sustainability has become
clear. Soliciting local input and providing local training are two ways of ensuring
sustainability. In many areas, locally developed and implemented projects are
also being used to quickly address serious local concerns.
Technology transfer of waste management systems between countries will be confronted
with many barriers, including limited financing, especially for South-South
financing, limited institutional capabilities, jurisdictional complexity and
lack of clear regulatory and investment frameworks and an overemphasis on projects
at the expense of capacity building activities.
Mitigation projects can be successfully integrated into larger waste management
efforts provided they are able to meet the needs and priorities of end-users,
decision-makers, and financial supporters. However, mitigation projects may
confront additional barriers, including:
- Lack of familiarity with the potential to reduce methane generation or
capture the methane emissions associated with waste management;
- Unwillingness or inability to commit additional human or financial resources
to investigating and addressing the climactic implications of the waste management
- Additional institutional complexity when new groups, representing issues
such as energy generation or by-product marketing, are incorporated into the
Key issues for technology transfer in solid waste management and waste water
The review of the waste management sector in the Report reveals several
key findings. This sector can contribute to greenhouse gas mitigation in ways
that are economically viable and meet many social priorities. Already, extensive
technology transfer is underway, and it will continue due to the continuing
need to provide and improve waste management services for the world's population.
In this sector it is important that projects emphasise the deployment of locally
appropriate technologies, and minimise the development of conventional large,
integrated waste management systems (with their attendant financial, institutional
and technical requirements) in situations where lower cost, simpler alternative
waste management technologies can be used.
Policy and Regulatory Development
Bilateral or multilateral regulatory or policy development assistance can be
very useful to countries seeking to develop an appropriate framework for waste
management. Given the importance of the regulatory/policy framework for international
private sector investment, private firms should be encouraged to participate
in such bilateral activities. When considering technology transfer between countries
aimed at improving regulatory or policy frameworks, it is important to recognise
differences between host and donor countries, and to ensure that the proper
solutions are developed.
Innovative Financing Approaches
The private sector can participate in technology transfer in the waste management
sector by serving as the developer of bilateral or multilateral funded projects
or through direct investment. Private sector opportunities for direct investment
are emerging, however, and many countries are increasingly seeking private participation
in waste projects.
Technology transfer aimed at assisting government agencies, particularly at
the municipal level, to privatise or otherwise encourage private participation
may be useful. Especially in developing countries, however, the structure and
function of the existing waste management system is likely to be very different
from the norm in developed countries. If these differences are not recognised
and addressed, attempts to emulate developed country models can fail.
Many bilateral technical assistance and capacity building activities are already
underway in the waste management sector. The Report discusses several types
of technology transfer for capacity building within countries, and many of the
same approaches can be used between countries. Some areas of capacity building
may be particularly appropriate for bilateral activities, including:
- Training to facilitate public participation;
- Training in financial management;
- Training in alternative technologies;
- Training in formulating business plans.
Existing and future capacity building activities in the waste management area
can be readily expanded to facilitate the transfer of mitigation technologies.
Activities could include increased emphasis on the climate impacts of various
technologies as part of basic technical assistance programmes, developing specific
decision tools and information for assessing climate impacts, and working with
government counterparts on how to encourage mitigation technologies using a
menu of voluntary, regulatory and incentive-based programmes. Expanded involvement
of local and regional government officials from both donor and host countries
would be beneficial, given their role in project development and implementation.
Given the still emerging understanding of these issues, technical assistance
activities in all directions (North-North, North-South, South-North, and South-South)
are likely to be useful.
The Kyoto Protocol will likely provide important incentives for expanded activities
between governments to develop mitigation projects. Provisions related to both
the Clean Development Mechanism and emissions trading could encourage expanded
bilateral investments in projects in exchange for emission reduction units.