Organic waste diversion

Minimizing the food waste sent to landfills to reduce methane generation and avoid significant costs incurred by developing or expanding landfills
Food waste
Ongoing
started:
2012

Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. In cities, food often makes up the majority of waste that ends up in landfills, where it gradually decomposes and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Methane emissions from organic waste such as food and plant waste are largely preventable. The actions to reduce these emissions – preventing waste at the source, diverting waste from landfills, and establishing separate collection, treatment, and energy recovery– create additional social and economic opportunities.

By reducing the amount of food wasted within cities, governments can address landfilling challenges, fight food insecurity, and mitigate climate change. To seize those opportunities, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Municipal Solid Waste Initiative supports cities around the world to manage food and other organic waste.

Challenges

Organic waste is so ubiquitous that managing it can seem insurmountable. Due to the large volumes of organic waste generated in cities, local waste management entities must have the capacity to collect, divert, and process it. This process  requires investment in additional collection bins, trucks, workers, and anaerobic digestion or compost facilities.

For waste management entities, the key to success is in convincing stakeholders, from household members to elected officials, that organic waste is valuable, and  deserves attention and resources.

In some cases, local policies provide subsidies for chemical fertilizers that put organic waste products at a competitive disadvantage. Additionally, encouraging community members to separate their organic waste requires behavioural change and ongoing reinforcement. 

Objectives

The Waste Initiative aims to support national and sub-national frameworks to efficiently reduce the careless disposal of methane-generating biodegradable waste. Sources of biodegradable waste include food loss during harvest, transportation and in storage, food waste from the preparation of meals,  leftovers, and spoiled food from restaurants, markets and homes; garden and yard waste; and paper and cardboard products.  

What we're doing

The Waste Initiative supports national and local-level actions, including:

  • The adoption of regulations/policies to encourage organic waste diversion from landfills
  • Support for implementation of adequate infrastructure to separate, divert, and treat organic waste
  • Organizational and financial capacity building
  • Awareness raising

Benefits of taking action on municipal solid waste

Resources & tools

Activity contact

Sandra Mazo-Nix ,
Municipal Solid Waste Initiative Coordinator
Sandra.Mazo-Nix [at] un.org

Initiatives

Pollutants (SLCP)

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