Waste management & circular economy

© GIZ/Radike

Improper waste management and circular economy activities are a problem for health, the environment and the climate. GIZ is therefore supporting the introduction of integrated circular economy and waste management systems.



Waste management problems place a particular burden on cities and urban agglomerations worldwide. Without successful waste prevention measures, it is estimated that cities in Africa and Asia will double the amount of waste they generate in the next 15–20 years. However, many developing countries and emerging economies do not have the necessary structures to deal with the increasing volumes of complex waste. Although municipalities spend between 20 and 50 per cent of their budget on waste management, around two billion people currently have no access to regulated waste collection. Environmentally responsible and resource-saving waste handling and recycling are rare. This results in hygiene and health risks, which mainly affect the poorer sections of the population. The problem affects everyone, however: without consistent waste avoidance measures and a functioning circular economy, increasing amounts of resources are wasted – with negative impacts on the climate. Landfill sites and improperly treated waste contaminate water, air and soil. Plastic waste is flushed via rivers into the oceans and endangers our marine ecosystems worldwide. In addition, the mountains of packaging materials and the landfill sites generate significant greenhouse gas emissions, which are exacerbating climate change.

New business models for waste management and the circular economy offer economic opportunities and can make a considerable contribution to climate protection. This potential must be harnessed more effectively in developing countries and emerging economies. Less waste is to be produced by taking consistent waste avoidance measures and reducing the huge amounts of packaging. Unavoidable waste needs to be recycled wherever possible and fed back into the circular economy. Waste materials that cannot be used must be disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner. The approach also requires changes in production and consumption patterns, which play a central role in waste prevention. The necessary transition entails political, economic and social changes, which have already begun across the globe. GIZ is supporting its partner countries in this paradigm shift with a view to developing and implementing locally appropriate solutions.

For more than 30 years, GIZ has been supporting waste management and circular economy projects on behalf of the German Government. It cooperates in particular with municipal administrations, associations, authorities, ministries, universities, non-governmental organisations, industry and business representatives. The aim of this cooperation is to develop viable, consensual solutions that are negotiated by all the stakeholders in a participatory process and subsequently implemented. The often informal workers who earn their living by collecting and selling recyclable waste are important stakeholders. GIZ is helping to include them in integrated circular economy and waste management concepts to improve their health and working conditions and increase their income security.