Waste management is one of the major problems impacting cities today. The rapid rate of urbanization in Asia has only exacerbated the issue. The main goal of this study is to explore the waste management initiatives of major population centers and economic hubs in Asia. For the purposes of this study, 14 Asian cities were selected based on a confluence of various factors, such as population, GDP per capita, progressiveness in development indices, waste generated per capita, and efficacy of waste management policies.

While these 14 cities may not be completely representative of all the waste management frameworks in Asia, they form a holistic mix providing a comprehensive picture of the best and worst waste management practices in major Asian cities. Cities were rated on their progress in achieving a few waste management benchmarks and several growth opportunities have been identified for each city. The study concludes with a summary of the best practices and the road to improvement for other cities in the region.

The top 3 cities in Asia in terms of waste management are: Seoul, Shanghai, and Taiwan (Taipei).

These cities displayed particular resourcefulness all along the waste chain, from collection to processing and, eventually, to disposal. They employed a diverse array of strategies and measures, utilizing their technological capabilities to the finest and were able to design and implement a holistic and effective waste management system in their cities.

On the other hand, the 3 cities that have the most room for improvement are: Karachi, Manila, and Jakarta.

These cities were particularly behind their contemporaries in terms of waste management, often lacking basic collection methods or just resorting to unsustainable and environmentally damaging disposal methods. The municipalities did try to implement a few policy measures, but they were often not implemented as planned or lacked the comprehensiveness to deal with the amount of waste produced by the city.

This study goes on to develop a roadmap to improvement for these cities, which will help them, step-by-step, develop and manage their waste disposal systems. Briefly, this roadmap can be broken down into 3 steps:
  • Developing rudimentary steps to improve waste collection and the construction of basic sanitary landfills
  • Retrieving value out of waste through WtE initiatives and improving sorting processes
  • Introducing enabling technologies to elevate and revolutionize waste management practices

Key opportunities include improvements in WtE technologies, such as incineration improvements, minimization of single-use materials, tracking technologies (used in bins, plastic bags, and collection trucks), recycling technologies, and improvements in sanitary landfills.