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Improving solid waste management in emerging economies

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Since the turn of the millennium, living standards have been steadily rising across Southeast Asia, with the region’s economic growth outpacing that of the rest of the world. But as citizens flock to major cities to seek a share of the new-found wealth, solid waste disposal infrastructure has not been able to keep pace with the growth in urban populations, increasing consumption levels, and changing waste profiles. As a result, a high proportion of (predominantly plastic) household and industrial waste has ended up lining coastal areas; clogging up waterways; and spoiling public spaces. Since its formation in 2003, ESC’s environmental consultancy solutions have been helping countries throughout the region to get to grips with solid waste management.

More than just a problem of aesthetics

Substandard solid waste management leads to more than just an eye-sore; it also has numerous negative environmental, social, public health, and economic impacts. These include:


    • Plastic in the waterways: Southeast Asia’s Mekong River is one of the most polluted rivers in the world, as is the Citarum river in Jakarta, Indonesia. Plastics are designed to be durable and long-lasting, positive attributes whilst in use, but negative when disposed. Plastics can take hundreds of years to break down, and as they do so they tend to break up into smaller and smaller pieces, forming microplastics, which inevitably end up as part of the food chain with particles being consumed by fish and animals, then entering the human diet. Plastic also blocks drainage systems leading to an increased risk of flooding in certain areas.
    • Air pollution: Due to inadequate waste disposal facilities, a high proportion of waste is burned without proper oversight. Indiscriminate burning of waste causes toxic air pollution which in turn leads to an increase in respiratory illnesses.
    • Income inequality: Uncollected waste tends to aggregate in lower-income areas, promoting pollution and disease vectors (flies, mosquitoes, rats, etc.) leading to higher rates of illness and associated loss of productivity. Furthermore, due to the accompanying smell and unsightly aesthetics of poor waste disposal,  such neighbourhoods tend to suffer from a lack of outside investment and therefore stagnating property prices.

Integrated waste management solution

ESC understands that to effectively address solid waste issues, the full solid waste cycle must be taken into account. The company’s comprehensive and integrated solutions cover every stage of solid waste management. These include:


    • Site searches and planning
    • Financial analysis and cost estimation
    • Landfill rehabilitation, extensions and closure
    • Landfill gas collection
    • Development of material recovery and composting facilities
    • Preparation of tender documents and tender evaluation
    • Construction supervision and commissioning
    • Institutional capacity building
    • Integrated SWM strategies and operational SWM plans
    • Training, and waste-based livelihoods.


Moreover, ESC understands that waste management solutions in developing countries, where robust, low-cost and easily maintained systems are required, will vary from those of more developed countries, where more advanced solutions utilising efficient material recovery and waste to energy approaches can be applied.

Enabling economic progress in emerging economies

Having consulted on numerous waste management projects throughout Southeast Asia, ESC’s expertise in dealing with solid waste pollution is unrivalled in the region. As environmental consultant to governments and international organisations such as the UN, World Bank, IFC, KfW, DFAT, it has become the most trusted name for solid waste management solutions in Asia.


As Southeast Asia continues its forward march of economic progress, and millions more are lifted from the clutches of poverty, ESC will be there to help ensure that individual countries have the waste disposal infrastructure they need to keep up with increased industrial output and rising living standards.


See here to find out more about how ESC can help your organisation improve its waste management systems.

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