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Waste collection systems in developing countries

Waste collection systems in developing countries

Organized at 1 PM GMT on 5th June, 2014



Send questions/comments by tweeting to us @bewastewise


michaelgwebster: Can the panel look 20 years into the future – what doe they think the predominant model of waste collection will be in the developing world? Will much have changed?

We’ll update this space with responses from the panel via email.


Dr. Linda Godfrey, Principal Researcher at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Adviser and Consultant, Water, Sanitation and Environment

Maria Tsakona, International Solid Waste Management Consultant, D-Waste.


This panel was sponsored by Earth Engineering Center, Columbia University

Earth Engineering Center, Columbia University




Maria Tsakona is the Curator of this theme. She was involved from the ideation phase of this theme and made periodic contributions to make it possible. She also helped structure the panels and suggested appropriate panelists for each topic.
Natali Ganfer is the research consultant for this theme. She structured the panels and helped conduct a survey to choose the panels

For contributions in various ways, we thank N. C. Vasuki, Nicolas Escalante, Mario Russo, Ann J. Reier, Jonathan Rivin, Nelson Gouveia, Andrea Atzori, and Victor Nascimento. Full acknowledgement.


Sharing solutions through dialogue

Sharing solutions through dialogue

Inappropriate waste collection systems are a significant threat to public health. Collection systems should be customized to the local needs to be successful. The waste composition, the different waste management technologies available in the area, and the presence of informal collectors are all aspects that should be considered in the design of an appropriate collection system. Appropriate containment of waste prior to collection is also important.

Often times, the improvement of a collection system should be accompanied by educational campaigns to generate behavioral changes in the population associated to the collection. National standards for collection systems must be set, including criteria for: performance, reporting, safety, cost, and penalties for non-compliance with the law. The latter of which, is a key aspect for the successful execution of the plan.

In less fortunate cases, inhabitants in communities feel helpless when they observe mountains of garbage in their streets and find no help from their government to collect the waste. Consequently, uncontrolled burning of waste is often observed, help from experts is sought, periodic assemblies with the government are pursued…. and the problem remains unresolved. Appropriate methodologies for waste management, collection systems in particular, in these urban and their surrounding communities are needed.


  1. What are the steps needed to improve the design and implementation of waste collection systems in developing countries?
  2. What aspects influence the design of an improved collection system?
  3. Why is it that we often find that a collection system design that seems appropriate fails when implemented?
  4. What is the most popular commonality between the collection systems in developing countries?
  5. How could collection systems in these areas be improved?
  6. What are the options available to communities with low budgets?
  7. What can residents do when dealing with a government that does not provide appropriate waste collection service to manage the waste?


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