About UNEP
United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
top image
space space space

State of Waste Management in South East Asia


The lack of municipal solid waste management in Asian countries has become a serious problem. Both the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Global Environment Outlook (GEO) 2 and the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) report "Sustainable Development in Asia (August 2000) pointed out this alarming condition. Only a few cities in Asia – notably, Singapore and Hong Kong -- and in Australia, Japan and New Zealand -- have adequate waste disposal sites. Even these cities are facing the specter of increasing volumes of waste (GEO 3, p. 253).

Solid waste management is not the only cause for concern in Asia. The absence of a system for managing wastewater and sewage is equally serious. An even bigger concern is the growing quantities of hazardous, toxic waste that hospitals and industrial and commercial establishments generate. Based on the ADB report, about 60 percent - 65 percent of this type of waste is deposited in dumpsites or landfills, five percent - 10 percent dumped in the ocean, and the rest incinerated or chemically treated. In most cases, proper safeguards are largely ineffective or not in place at all.

Moreover, unsafe disposal of garbage and wastewater in the region, coupled with poor hygiene, is creating opportunities for transmission of diseases. This was reported in United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)'s "Review of the State of the Environment in Asia and the Pacific, presented during the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development held in Japan in September 2000.

There is no doubt that Asian countries need to formulate effective ways to manage their waste. This is especially so among the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) where major cities and urban centers are notorious for open dumping. It has also been reported that marine and freshwater ecosystems in the sub-region are among the most badly damaged in the world due to pollution from all types of waste.

Solutions to problems of waste management are available. However, a general lack of awareness of the impact of unattended waste on people's health and lives, and the widespread perception that the solutions are not affordable have made communities and local authorities apathetic towards the problems. Information on the 'soft' solutions, which have more lasting effect - for example, environmental education and communication, partnerships for a clean environment, campaigns to promote environmental duties of every citizen - are not widely disseminated.

"State of Waste Management in South East Asia" is an attempt at making governments and peoples in the ASEAN sub-region aware of the state of waste management - or lack of it - in each of their countries and in the sub-region as a whole. It is hoped that this publication will open the eyes of the citizens in this part of the world to the increasing menace posed by the lack of waste management systems and inspire them to do their share to make such systems operative. It also hopes to instill a moral compulsion among policy makers to make waste management a part of their government's development policy.

This report is a result of a small survey conducted in 2002 by UNEP IETC in cooperation with the ASEAN Working Group for Multilateral Environmental Agreements (AWGMEA). The survey was undertaken to prepare a background paper on waste management in the sub-region prior to the holding in Kuala Lumpur in October 2002 of an ASEAN High Level Consultation Meeting. The focus is to deliberate on a proposal to establish a regional framework for collaboration in sustainable integrated waste management.

This is a joint publication of UNEP IETC and the ASEAN Secretariat. It is envisaged to be a reference for planning, programming and policy reviews on waste management in each member state of ASEAN. It is also planned to be updated every two years, and made available online, so that it can serve as a supplement to the GEO reports, on the specialized area of waste management.

Table of Contents
  • Brochure
  • IETC Brochure

  • International Year of Forests
  • International Year of Forests

  • World Environment Day
  • ??????

  • UNEP Campaign
  • UNite to Combat Climate Change